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The Kumbha Mela

Listed under Festivals in Allahabad, India.

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Sacred site festivals in India, called melas, are a vital part of the pilgrimage tradition of Hinduism. Celebrating a mythological event in the life of a deity or an auspicious astrological period, the melas attract pilgrims from around the country. The greatest of these, the Kumbha Mela, is a riverside festival held four times every twelve years, rotating between Allahabad, Nasik, Ujjain and Hardwar. The Allahabad festival, the largest religious gathering in the world, attracts vast numbers of pilgrims; 13 million came in 1977, 18 million in 1989, and more than 25 million in 2001.

The Allahabad Kumbha Mela festival is traditionally known as the gathering of the sadhus. At the most auspicious hour of the month-long festival thousands of naked holy men immerse themselves in the river, ritually cleansing both mind and spirit. Following the immersion of the sadhus, millions of other people enter the river. To participate in the Kumbha Mela during this auspicious time is considered an opportunity of great significance. Many Hindus also consider the Kumbha Mela sites to be the most favored places at which to die, and ritual suicide, though discouraged by the government, is still practiced. To understand the spiritual magnetism of the festival it is important to know its origin myth. During a battle between the gods and various demons in mythological time four drops of a potion of immortality fell to earth at the Kumbha Mela sites. At rare astrological periods these four sites are believed to function as portals to everlasting union with god. Perhaps there is some energy, some mysterious spirit or power manifest at these places and times which assists people in experiencing spiritual awakening and enlightenment. The fact that hundreds of millions of people for thousands of years have believed this to be true suggests that an awesome power is indeed present at the Kumbha Mela sites.

Photo: Temporary tent city at the Kumbha Mela, Allahabad, India

More about Kumbha Melas by Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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