Maha Kumbh , millions take dip in Holy Ganga
HARIDWAR: Braving the winter chill, thousands of devotees today took a holy dip in the Ganga here heralding the start of the three-month-long Maha Kumbh, considered the largest religious congregation that takes place once in 12 years.
With the sun rise at about 0645 hours, devotees, who had started lining up along the streets of Haridwar leading to various ghats, took the dip on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’ — known as Uttarayan in other parts of the country, the day when the sun starts to move northwards marking the decline of winter.
Men, women and children outnumbered the sadhus,
About Kumbh Mela, India Haridwar 2010 Maha Kumbh
Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of people for a religious purpose in the world. Millions of people gather on different places for this auspicious occasion. Kumbha is a Sanskrit word for Pitcher, sometimes referred to as the Kalasha.
Kumbh Mela is celebrated four times every 12 years, the site of the observance rotating between four pilgrimage places on four sacred rivers: at Haridwar on the Ganges river, at Ujjain on the Shipra, at Nasik on the Godavari, and at Prayagraaj on the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical river Sarasvati.
For each site Kumbh Mela comes in every 12 years. Each site’s celebration is based on particular zodiacal positions of the Sun, the Moon, and Jupiter, the holiest time occurring at the exact moment these zodiacal conditions are fulfilled.According to astrologers, the ‘Kumbh Fair’ takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. Kumbh (Kumbha means pot) Mela (means fair) is a sacred Hindu pilgrimage. It takes place at the following four locations of India: Prayagraj, (Uttar Pradesh) , Haridwar(Uttarakhand) , Ujjain(Madhya Pradesh) , Nasik (Maharashtra)
History and Legend of Kumbha Mela
Kumbh Mela is considered as the most auspicious period of India.
The origin of Kumbh Mela dates back to the time when Gods (Devtas) and Demons (Asura) resided on earth. Devtas were under the influence of a curse which aroused fear in them eventually making them weak and coward. Brahma (the creator) advised them to churn the milky ocean to obtain the elixir of immortality. The Mandara Mountain acted as the churning rod and Vasuki (king of serpents) was used as a rope for churning. Kumbh was the pot which consist the nectar of immortality and was recovered from Samudramanthan.
Devtas asked the help of demons for this sturdy task to complete with mutual agreement of sharing the elixir of immortality equally. They churned the ocean for 1000 years, where demons were holding Vasuki’s head and Gods were holding its tail. Finally after this entire churning process, Dhanwantari appeared with Kumbh in his palms. To prevent the amrita (elixir of immortality) from demons, its safety was entrusted to Gods Brahaspati, Surya, Shani and Chandra. After learning the conspiracy of the Devtas, demons turned vicious and attacked them. Devtas knew that demons possessed more power and can easily defeat them. The Devtas ran away with the Kumbh to hide it away and they were chased by Asuras. For 12 days and 12 nights the Gods were chased by Demons for the possession of Amrita. These 12 days of Gods are equivalent to 12 years of Humans. During this chase for the elixir of immortality the drops from Kumbh fell at four places –Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.
Whereas some stories tells us that Demons were chased by Gods for 12 days and nights when the drops of amrita fell down from Kumbh at Prayaagraj, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. In some mythological scriptures it is mentioned that the war between Gods and Demons in the sky lasted for twelve days for the possession of Amrita. To commemorate this holy event Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated in every twelve years at the four sacred places where the drops from Kumbh were fallen.
Kumbh Mela is the largest spiritual gathering in the world where millions of devotees takes a holy dip in the sacred water.
It is believed that the river turns itself into sanctity spots filled with primordial amrita at the historic moment of the Maha Kumbh Mela. The pilgrims get once in a lifetime chance to bathe in the spirit of holiness, auspiciousness and salvation.
Haridwar in Uttarakhand where the holy Ganga River enters the plains from the mighty Himalayas.
The sacred Prayag (confluence) in Prayagraj of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati
On the banks of Ksipra River at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh.
On the banks of Godavari River at Nasik in Madhya Pradesh
Symbolism of Samudra Manthan
The fascinating story of Samudra Manthan holds within itself the secret to self-realisation. It represents the divine endeavour of a seeker for nirvana and the path he has to take to achieve his goal – concentration, control over senses and desires, and practice of austerity and sobriety.
Deavas and Asuras: They represent the positive and negative sides of one`s personality. Thus the participation of both for a common goal signifies that the seeker of bliss has to first integrate both the positive and negative aspects of his being and take them into use for a common goal.
Primordial sea: The ocean of milk ‘Kshir Sagar’ is the mind (consciousness). It has to be churned in like an ocean to get clarity of thought, symbolised by Samudra Manthan.
Mandhara (the mountain): It symbolises concentration. The word Mandhara is made up of two words — Mana (mind) and Dhara (a single line), which means holding the mind in one line (concentration).
Kurma (tortoise): Mount Mandhara was upheld by Lord Vishnu in his Kurma avatar. The symbolism here is important. Just like a tortoise which withdraws its head into its shell, one needs to achieve withdrawal from sensory pleasures to get into ones own self through mental concentration or meditation.
Vasuki (Serpent): Vasuki symbolises our desires. It is symbolically used to churn the ocean (mind) by combining the positives (Devas) and negatives (Asuras) of one personality in the quest for self-realisation with the help of concentration and withdrawal of the senses. But desire, if not controlled, will overpower and make the pursuit of bliss futile.
Halahala: The emergence of Halahala (poison) as the first product of churning of mind has deep significance too. It symbolises suffering and pain (counter-reaction of the mind and body) that one undergoes at the beginning of spiritual path. This inner turmoil must be resolved otherwise further progress is not possible.
Lord Shiva: Mahadev symbolises the ascetic way of life that forms the basic tenet in the quest for spiritual upliftment. His role as the consumer of poison suggests that one can deal with the early problems of spiritual life by cultivating the qualities of Lord Shiva, namely, courage, initiative, willingness, compassion and pure love.
The various precious objects that are gained during the churning stand for the spiritual powers (Siddhis) which the seeker gains – stage to stage – while on the path of spiritually. The seeker should be careful as these intermediate successes can hinder spiritual progress unless they are used judiciously – not for selfish gains but for welfare of mankind. This is the reason why the Gods and Asuras distributed these objects as they did not want to lose sight of their original aim, which was to gain immortality – self realisation.
Dhanvantari: The Kumbh was carried by the godly Physician Dhanvantari, who symbolises health, so as to indicate that spiritual success can only be achieved when the body and the mind are in a perfect state of health.
Mohini: The Mohini avatar of Vishnu symbolises the mirage which the mind believes in owing to pride. The demons succumbed to temptations and thus lost sight of their goal. Pride and egoism are the last hurdles one has to overcome on the path of spiritual upliftment before experiencing self-realisation.
Amrit: It symbolises the ultimate achievement of the goal of self-realization.
Religious Importance of Kumbh Mela
People spend entire month of Kumbh on the banks of Ganga, meditating, performing rituals and bathing thrice a day.
Taking bath during Kumbh Mela in the Holy River is believed that it cures the bather of all sins and evils and grants the bather, salvation (Moksha). It is also believed that at the time of Kumbh Yog, the miracle water of Ganga is charged with positive healing effects and that water at the time of Kumbh is charged positively by enhanced rays of the Sun, Moon and the Jupiter, the flux of which also varies in accordance to positions and the phases of the moon, and also by the + and – signs of the sun spots.
In 2010 the Kumbh Mela will happen in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) on the bank of River Ganges. Last time Kumbh Mela happened in Hardwar in 1999.
Ganga at Haridwar
Haridwar is situated on the right side of the bank of the holy Gahar-ki-Pauringa, and is the point where the river spreads over the northern plains. Associated with both Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, Haridwar is among the seven sacred cities of India. It is also one of the four venues for the Kumbh Mela, held in its magnitude every twelve years. Essentially a religious centre which holds promise of salvation for devotees, Haridwar is also a centre of herbal medicine, and traditional studies at Gurukul Kangri. There are many places of scenic beauty on the outskirts of the town.
IMPORTANT DATES FOR MAHA KUMBHA – HARIDWAR (HARDWAR)2010
14 Jan 2010 Thu Makar Sankranti Snan – First Snan (bath)
15 Jan 2010 Fri Mauni Amavasya and Surya Grahan (Solar Eclipse) – 2nd Snan
20 Jan 2010 Wed Basant Panchmi Snan – Third snan
30 Jan 2010 Sat Magh Purnima Snan – Fourth Snan
12 Feb 2010 Fri Maha Shivratri – Pratham Shahi Snan – First Royal Bath
15 Mar 2010 Mon Somvati Amavasya – Dvitya Shahi snan – 2nd Royal Bath.
24 Mar 2010 Wed Ram Navmi – Fifth Snan
30 Mar 2010 Tue Chaitra purnima snan
14 Apr 2010 Wed Baisakhi – Pramukh Shahi Sanan
28 Apr 2010 Wed Shakh Purnima – snan
Shahi Snaan (Royal Bath) for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects: March 15, March 30, and April 14, 2010
Maha Kumbh – Congregation of faith like no other
Faith is at work again. Maha Kumbh – the biggest congregation of mankind for a cause– has begun in Haridwar. With hearts that beat in sync with the gushing Holy Ganga and a silent prayer on their lips, seekers rich and poor are flocking the ghats for their share of Amrit – the eternal nectar.
The Kumbh Mela is in many ways, the ultimate demonstration of mankind’s faith. And, when combined with the devotional expression or bhakti; nirvana or moksha doesn’t look impossible to achieve.
Kumbh is a great roving festival that has moved around India for more than four thousand years, erecting temporary cities along rivers where millions of Hindu devotees gather to wash away their sins in the holy waters.
The fortunate placement of planets and bright constellations has enabled the instigation of the Mela in Haridwar – one of the seven sacred cities of India. ‘Hari ka Dwar’ Haridwar is believed to be the Gateway to the Kingdom of Gods and thus has been an active centre of Hindu religion and cultural heritage for thousands of years.
Millions of devotees and curious visitors have flocked to this quaint little town to get a glimpse of India’s cultural supremacy and attain nirvana (releasing oneself from the cycle of birth & death).
In reality Haridwar doesn’t need the Kumbh Mela to claim its position as one of the most important seats of Hindu faith and identity, but surely the amazing and spectacular spiritual congregation called the Kumbh; replete with rituals and fanfare, discourses and prayers, yagnas, bhajans and kirtans, adds to the aura of the place like nothing else can.
Different forms of Kumbh
The Purna Kumbh or Maha Kumbh is held every twelve years in the four Holy cities of Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik. Ardh or `half Kumbh` Mela, is held every six years on the banks of Sangam. Second only to the Kumbh in sanctity, the Ardh Kumbh also attracts devotes in the millions, from all over the world. Magh Mela is an annual event held at the Sangam.
Haridwar- The gateway to the Kingdom of Gods
According to Hindu mythology, Haridwar is one of the seven holy cities of India, which is situated at the foothills of the Shivalik range of Himalayas. The word Haridwar, literally means “The gateway to the Kingdom of Gods”, as it is believed that the Gods left their footprints at this place. As per the legends, one can attain supreme salvation by praying to Lord Vishnu (Hari) or Lord Shiva and hence this spot of salvation has derived its name “Haridwar or Hardwar” from the deities.
The sacred river Ganga, which emerges from its source in Gangotri in upper Himalayas, comes down and meets the plains here. It is one of the four holy cities of India where the biggest congregation of faith, globally known as Kumbh Mela, is held.
Haridwar is an ancient pilgrimage site, held in reverence for centuries. The Chinese pilgrim Hyuen Tsang who visited India many centuries ago, narrated Haridwar as Mayura, on the eastern banks of the Ganges in his travelogues. The city is full of several temples and ashrams, each having their own religious significance. A visit to this place takes the inquisitive visitor into a totally different world of spirituality and mysticism.
In the ancient times, Haridwar was also known as Gangadwar, Tapovan and Mayapuri. The centuries old history of Haridwar states that the city derived its name from the sages, who lived here and worshipped their deities. The city is also known as Kapilsthan.
Legend goes that the Suryavanshi King Sagar’s descendent Bhagirath performed penance here to salvage the souls of his ancestors who had perished due to the curse of the sage Kapila.
In order to purge his ancestors of their sins, King Bhagirath brought river Ganga from heaven to earth. The penance was answered and the river Ganga trickled forth from Lord Shiva`s locks and its bountiful waters revived the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara.
According to the Hindu mythology, drops of nectar churned out from the primordial ocean fell at the four sites of the Kumbh mela including Haridwar when Lord Indra’s son Jayant was running away from demons while carrying the earthen pot containing the ambrosia.
Haridwar has always been a major pilgrimage centre for the Hindu devotees and for those seeking peace and eternity. The city is home to some of the most sacred Hindu rituals. One can see devotees from round the globe congregating in Haridwar and Rishikesh to perform yagnas and prayers.
The picturesque city is a major tourist attraction mainly due its perfect blend of height and plains, waterfalls and the river itself. Haridwar is also very popular among both foreign and indigenous tourists because of the different types of alternative treatment facility that it provides. Some renowned Ayurveda and Yoga institutes are also located in Haridwar.
Not only this, Haridwar also stands as a gateway to the other three most important pilgrimage spots for Hindu in Uttaranchal i.e. Rishikesh, Badrinath and Kedarnath.
The pilgrimage to the Himalayan shrines begins only when the sun reaches the zodiac sign of Aries. Haridwar is also the site of celebration of the Kumbha Mela, once in twelve years, when Jupiter transits to the zodiac sign of Aquarius.
The five sacred bathing spots in Haridwar are Gangadwara, Kankhal, Nila Parvata, Bilwa Theertha and Kusavarta. The main ghat at Haridwar is known as Hari-ki-Pairi (known for a footprint of Vishnu on a stone in a wall). Nearby is the Gangadwara temple, the most important of the several temples that dot this town. The Ganga Aarti which is celebrated at 7 pm each night, is a spectacular sight, when the Aarti ceremony is performed at all temples in Haridwar at the same instant. Hundreds throng to the ghats at Hari ki Paudi to participate in this festival. Offerings of lamps and flowers are made to the river immediately following this ceremony and it is a moving sight to watch hundreds of miniature lamps float along the river.
The foremost reason for one to attend the Maha Kumbh is to take a dip in the Holy river. It is believed that a holy dip in sacred rivers during Maha Kumbh or Ardh kumbh takes the person out of the cycle of life & death and liberates him of his sins.
Har Ki Pauri: This sacred Ghat was constructed by King Vikramaditya in memory of his brother Bhartrihari. It is believed that Bhartrihari eventually came to Haridwar to meditate by the banks of holy Ganga. When he died, his brother constructed a Ghat in his name which later came to be known as Har Ki Pauri. This sacred bathing ghat is also known as Brahmakund Ghat. The reflection of golden hues of floral diyas in the river Ganga is the most enchanting sight in the twilight during the Ganga Arti ceremony.
Asthi Pravah Ghat: Immediately south of the main Ganga temple is the Asthi Pravah Ghat, where the ashes of the dead are immersed in the Ganga. This is done as per popular belief that as refreshing waters of river Ganga liberated the 60,000 sons of King Sagar, it will bestow salvation upon the departed souls as well.
Kushavarth Ghat: This sacred bathing ghat is known after famous sage Dattatreya, who meditated for nearly ten thousand years while standing on one foot. This ghat was later constructed by the rulers of the Holkar dynasty. A large number of devotees emerge on Mesh Sankranti seeking salvation for their ancestors.
Subhash Ghat: Subhash Ghat, with a statue of the freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, is adjacent to Har Ki Pauri. A voluntary organization runs a dispensary here and also assists pilgrims.
Gau Ghat: South of Subhash Ghat is Gau Ghat, where people seek atonement for the sin of cow-slaughter (gau means cow). The unique veneration of cow in India goes back 3500 years. The cow was “Kamadhenu”, the fulfiller of desires, and a cherished item of wealth. Death ceremonies were completed with the pious act of donating a cow. The sin of killing a cow is “equal to the sin of killing a Brahmin”.
The Kumbh Mela is what it is – the biggest congregation of faith – for the very simple reason that a ritual bath during the event (as per astrology, when the nectar fell on the earth from the Amrit Kumbh) would impart them that one chance to get Moksha without actually going through the entire Sagar Manthan indicating the arduous process of self-realisation.
They believe that a bath in the holy waters will cleanse them and their ancestors of all evil and sins. Moreover, Kumbh is also the festival of people’s devotion to the almighty, their belief in the unseen nurturing powers of nature (Shrishti).