Kumbh Mela

Kumbh Mela
Third Shahi Snan in Hari Ki Pauri.jpg
Pilgrims at the Haridwar Kumbh Mela in 2010
DomainsReligious pilgrimage, rituals, social practices and festive events
RegionAsia and the Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription2017 (12th session)
Unesco Cultural Heritage logo.svg
Held alternately between Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain every three years.

Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela (ə/ or ɑː/), inscribed on the UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,[1] is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh Melas: the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, and Ujjain Simhastha. These four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak), and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of a river: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the invisible Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Shipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all their sins.[2]

At any given place, the Kumbh Mela is held once in 12 years. There is a difference of around 3 years between the Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Nashik; the fairs at Nashik and Ujjain are celebrated in the same year or one year apart. The exact date is determined, as per Vikram Samvat calendar and the principles of Jyotisha, according to a combination of zodiac positions of the Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon. At Nashik and Ujjain, the Mela may be held while a planet is in Leo (Simha in Hindu astrology); in this case, it is also known as Simhastha. At Haridwar and Allahabad, an Ardha ("Half") Kumbh Mela is held every sixth year; a Maha ("Great") Kumbh Mela occurs after 144 years.[3]

The priests at other places have also claimed their local fairs to be Kumbh Melas. For example, the Mahamaham festival at Kumbakonam, held once in 12 years, is also portrayed as a Kumbh Mela.[4]

The exact age of the festival is uncertain. According to medieval Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu dropped drops of Amrita (the drink of immortality) at four places, while transporting it in a kumbha (pot). These four places are identified as the present-day sites of the Kumbh Mela. The name "Kumbh Mela" literally means "kumbha fair". It is known as "Kumbh" in Hindi (due to schwa deletion); in Sanskrit and some other Indian languages, it is more often known by its original name "Kumbha".[5]

The festival is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world, and considered as the "world's largest congregation of religious pilgrims".[6] There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary. An estimated 120 million people visited Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013 in Allahabad over a two-month period,[7] including over 30 million on a single day, on 10 February 2013 (the day of Mauni Amavasya).[8][9]

Mythological origin

Samudra manthan or churning of the milk ocean

According to medieval Hindu mythology, the origin of the festival can be found in the ancient legend of samudra manthan. The legend tells of a battle between the Devas and Asuras for amrita, the drink of immortality. During samudra manthan, or churning of the ocean, amrita was produced and placed in a kumbha (pot). To prevent the asuras (malevolent beings) from seizing the amrita, a divine carrier flew away with the pot. In one version of the legend, the carrier of the kumbha is the divine physician Dhanavantari, who stops at four places where the Kumbh Mela is celebrated. In other re-tellings, the carrier is Garuda, Indra or Mohini, who spills the amrita at four places.[10]

While several ancient texts, including the various Puranas, mention the samudra manthan legend, none of them mentions spilling of the amrita at four places.[10] Neither do these texts mention the Kumbh Mela. Therefore, multiple scholars, including R. B. Bhattacharya, D. P. Dubey and Kama Maclean believe that the samudra manthan legend has been applied to the Kumbh Mela relatively recently, in order to show scriptural authority for it.[11]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Kumbh Mela
العربية: كومبه ميلا
অসমীয়া: কুম্ভ মেলা
asturianu: Kumbhamela
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Кумбха Мэля
भोजपुरी: कुंभ मेला
català: Kumbhamela
čeština: Kumbhaméla
Cymraeg: Kumbh Mela
dansk: Kumbh Mela
Deutsch: Kumbh Mela
español: Kumbhamela
Esperanto: Kumbhamela
فارسی: کوم میلا
français: Kumbh Mela
ગુજરાતી: કુંભ મેળો
हिन्दी: कुम्भ मेला
Bahasa Indonesia: Kumbha Mela
italiano: Kumbh Mela
עברית: קומבה מלה
ಕನ್ನಡ: ಕುಂಭ ಮೇಳ
lietuvių: Kumbha mela
magyar: Kumbh mela
മലയാളം: കുംഭമേള
मराठी: कुंभमेळा
Bahasa Melayu: Kumbh Mela
Nederlands: Kumbh Mela
नेपाली: कुम्भ मेला
norsk nynorsk: Kumbh mela
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਕੁੰਭ ਮੇਲਾ
polski: Kumbhamela
português: Khumba Mela
русский: Кумбха Мела
संस्कृतम्: कुम्भोत्सवः
Scots: Kumbh Mela
suomi: Kumbh Mela
svenska: Kumbh Mela
తెలుగు: కుంభ మేళా
Türkçe: Kumb Mela
українська: Кумбха-Мела
中文: 大壺節