The year 2019 begins on an auspicious note with the Ardh Kumbh Mela set to take place between the 15th January – 4th March at Prayagraj (Allahabad). Directly translated, ‘Kumbh’ means ‘pitcher’, and Mela means ‘gathering’ is an event where devotees from all walks of life gather to take a dip at the ‘Triveni Sangam’, a sacred confluence of the 3 holy rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. This festival is attended by pilgrims, spiritual seekers, saints and yogis from everywhere and is known as the largest peaceful spiritual gathering in the world. The last Kumbh Mela which was held in Nasik in 2013 saw about 120 million people attend the festival and this year organisers are well prepared to accommodate a high number of attendees. In 2017, UNESCO inscribed the Kumbh Mela on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
History of the Kumbh Mela
To understand what makes the Kumbh Mela an auspicious festival, it’s important to understand the mythology associated with this grand event. The God’s and the Demons were at war over ‘Amrit’, the nectar of immortality and it is said that a few drops of the nectar fell in four places – Nasik, Prayagraj, Ujjain, and Haridwar. It is therefore believed by Hindus worldwide that a dip in any of these 4 places, especially during an auspicious time can free them from the cycles of rebirth and be cleansed of sin.
The Kumbh Mela occurs every 3 years, while the Ardh Kumbh Mela (half) occurs every 6 years at Prayagraj and Haridwar. There is also the Poorna Kumbh Mela (complete) which occurs once every 12 years in all four places – Nasik, Prayagraj, Ujjain, and Haridwar. The most auspicious of all Kumbh festivals is the Maha Kumbh Festival which is celebrated after 12 Poorna Kumbh Melas or after 144 years.
Taking the holy dip
Pilgrims from all over the world will be traveling to Prayagraj this year to take a sacred dip in the holy confluence. The other main attractions of the Kumbh Mela are the Shaivanti Naga Sadhus (Naga saints who are followers of Shiva) who are only seen during this auspicious festival. The renunciate Sadhus live most of their lives in Himalayan caves, completely cut away from civilisation. These saints do not wear any type of clothing, smear their bodies in holy ash and have long dreadlocks for hair. They only descend and mix with civilisation during the Kumbh Mela’s.
Ardh Kumbh 2019
To accommodate the growing number of expected pilgrims attending this year’s festival, the government of Uttar Pradesh has made special arrangements for stay and travel. According to India Today, a temporary city has also been created for the Kumbh Mela 2019.
For more information on the festival, please check out the festival’s official website here – https://kumbh.gov.in/en