Monday, January 14, 2013


KUMBH MELA FESTIVAL Monday marks the opening day of the Hindu festival of Kumbh Mela in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. Tens of millions of pilgrims are expected to visit to bathe at the Sang am - the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. The festival is scheduled to continue until 10 March and is billed as the biggest religious gathering in the world. The festival has been held on the banks of the Ganges for thousands of years. It is at its largest once every 12 years when it attracts tens of millions of people. The BBC's Geeta Pandey is in Allahabad, giving regular updates on how the day progresses.
At 5am, Sangam is a hub of frantic activity. Thousands of pilgrims have already taken a dip in the holy waters, thousands are lining up for their turn and thousands more are walking towards the river front. Although the sky is still dark, the bathing ghats are lit up with thousands of electric bulbs. The air here smells smoky from all the fires which people have burned overnight to stay warm. Among the early bathers was Manidatt Panda from Nepal. "I've washed off my sins," he said, laughing.

At 07am, the first group of Naga sadhus (ascetics) arrived in a colourful procession. Led by naked ash-smeared men with marigold garlands around their necks, they sprinted into the chilly waters of Sangam. Dip over, some came and stood before us in the media enclosure, rubbing coarse river sand onto their bodies. At 07:30 the sadhus from the Niranjani akhara (camp) arrive in a huge procession and get 45 minutes to bathe. 
The group, which has several hundred naked ascetics, has a reputation for being rather unfriendly and they are accompanied by the elite commandos of the RAF (rapid action force). As waves of naked ash-smeared ascetics continue to arrive and sprint towards the river, thousands of bathers in nearby enclosures watch in awe. In a departure from tradition, a large number of women ascetics have also come for a bath at Sangam. Dressed in bright saffron-coloured saris and robes, they seemed to be enjoying all the attention. Meanwhile, in the next enclosure, thousands of ordinary pilgrims - men and women, old and young - are moving in orderly lines for their bathing rituals.

The Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage in which Hindus gather in specific locations along the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical river Saraswati. "India is a land of spectacles, it is a land of teeming millions and a land of an ancient culture and civilisation. I have seen vast crowds assemble but none as big as the millions who flocked to the north Indian city of Allahabad to bathe at the confluence where the cloudy waters of the river Ganges meet the blue waters of the river Yamuna on the most auspicious day of those Melas," says Mark Tully, former BBC India Correspondent. "Faith is the key to the Kumbh Mela. There would be no Kumbh Mela were it not for the faith that draws millions of pilgrims to the Sangam in Allahabad," he explains.

To bathe in the sangam on the peak days is said to especially purify one's existence and relieve one from the continued cycle of birth and death in the material world after this life. Thus, the importance and good fortune for those who can do this is taken very seriously. This is actually the significance of the Kumbha Mela: It offers the chance to transcend, to reach beyond the endless suffering of material existence and reincarnation and enter the level of liberation, salvation, and immortality. It promises to purify us in the spiritual sense, and merge or become connected with the Divine in all of us. ... In this way, the Kumbha Mela provides a means for the spiritual upliftment of all mankind. It is a time to remember the time honored spiritual knowledge found in the Vedic texts and customs. It is a time when everyone can renew their spiritual unity and values, based on mutual love, brotherhood, compassion, tolerance, and devotion to God.

Stephen Knapp (Śrīpad Nandanandana dasa) :
“The Traditional Legend of the Kumbha Mela”  -

Published by dasavatara das - "Vedic Views on World News"

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