Search Contact Site Map Download News Vicharan Home Annual Festivals Ahmedabad India 1981 London UK, 1985 Ahmedabad India, 1985 Edison USA,1991 Gandhinagar India, 1992 Mumbai India, 1995 Festivals

Kumbh Mela 2001

The Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, a religious congregation and fair, is the largest gathering of pilgrims in the Hindu Dharma to bathe in the confluence of three sacred rivers. In terms of sheer religious fervor, faith and participation, it is unmatched in the world. Added to this, it is the largest gathering of Hindu ascetics on any occasion.

The 42-day Kumbh Mela 2001 starts on 9th January and ends on 21st February 2001. It is celebrated every 12 years in Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik, depending on particular astronomical combinations. At Hardwar the venue is on the banks of the Ganga, at Ujjain, on the banks of the Shipra, and at Nasik, on the banks of the Godavari.

The Kumbh Mela is Hindu Dharma's most prominent tradition since time immemorial. However, the predecessors of today's Naga ascetics reported observing the winter solstice of Magh Amavasya at Prayag (now Allahabad) in 3464 BCE. Vishwamitra II observed it on Magh Purnima in 2382 BCE. In 1302 BCE Jyotish Maharshi observed it on Posh Purnima. These dates were then chosen for ritual bathing. The Chinese traveller Huen Tsang, noted a Hindu gathering at Prayag in the reign of King Harshvardhan (606-645 CE).

Later, Adi Shankaracharya regrouped various sects of ascetics and propagated the Hindu Dharma through the Kumbh Mela. The Jains and Sikhs too participated. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu from Bengal, also attended the Kumbh at Prayag in 1515 CE.

The increasing zeal of pilgrims during the second half of the 20th century is clearly reflected by the following figures:

Gathering at Kumbh Mela, Allahabad on Mauni Amavasya
(Kumbh Snan Yog-Math bathing day) (in millions)
over 30 (expected)

Scriptural Origin.
The Garud Puran (I 240.26-28) and other Hindu texts cite the story of the origin of the Kumbh (pitcher).

Once the sage Durvasa visited Lord Indra in Amravati, the capital of his abode. He honored Indra with a garland of 'never-wilting' flowers. Indra passed it to Airavat, his seven-trunked elephant, who crushed it under his feet. Offended, the enraged Durvasa cursed Indra, divesting him of all his wealth and possessions. This weakened the devas(deities). Lord Vishnu, the sustainer of the universe, advised Indra to attain Amrut, the divine elixir, to regain power. To procure this from the depth of the ocean, the devas and danavas (demons), though arch enemies, banded together. Thus ensued the Samudra Manthan, churning of the ocean. From this sprung forth 14 ratnas(gems). One of them was Lord Vishnu, in the form of Lord Dhanvantari (the divine healer) with a Kumbh of Amrut. The devas and demons scrambled for the Amrut Kumbh. However Dhanvantari passed it on to Garuda, Vishnu's divine vehicle, to take it to Swarg. In hot pursuit, the demons arrested Garud's flight forcing it to place the Kumbh down, in 4 places; the present day Allahabad, Hardwar, Ujjain and Nasik. The Amrut spilled in these places, eternally sanctifying them.

During the flight, Garud was guided by Lord Bruhaspati (Jupiter), then in transit in the Aquarius, Taurus and Leo rashis (Zodiac). The Sun, Saturn and moon protected its flanks. The flight lasted 12 days, equivalent to 12 human years. Hence the Maha Kumbh is celebrated every 12 years. A half Kumbh is also celebrated every 6 years.

Kumbh Snan Yog (Astronomical combination for bathing).

Posh Purnima -- 9th Jan.2001
Makar Sankranti – 14th Jan.2001
Shahi(regal) Snan Mauni Amavasya – 24th Jan.2001 – New Moon Day. Sun & Moon are in Makar (Capricorn) & Jupiter transits Varakh (Taurus, sometimes Aries).
Vasant Panchmi – 29th Jan.2001
Magh Purnima – 8th Feb.2001
Maha Shivaratri – 21st Feb. 2001

The punya (spiritual merit) gained by bathing at Prayag (Allahabad) during the month of Magh is described in the Mahabharat as equivalent to that obtained by fasting for 100 years. This is known as Kalpwas.

Management & Security.
The state government of Uttar Pradesh has earmarked a budget of Rs.1.5 billion for the smooth success of the Kumbh Mela including an official Kumbh Mela 2001 website. The BBC News observes, "This time the authorities have married modern technology with ancient tradition to regulate as well as market the 42-day event. India's celebrated information technology skills are being put to good use with the Internet being used to facilitate visitors and the media." NGO's too are aiding administration.

To safeguard the religious gathering from terrorism by non-Hindus, a formidable security force has been deployed. These include: a dog squad to sniff out bombs, 7000 specially trained constables, River Police, divers and army commandos with motor boats and life-saving equipment for those in the water. Arrangements have been made to allow 20,000 pilgrims to bathe at one time. The Indo-Tibetan Border Police, the Border Security Force and Intelligence Bureau too are involved in aiding security.

Maha Kumbh Nagar is the name given to the township, sprawling 6000 acres of the riverbed. Divided into 15 sectors, it houses 5000 tents to accommodate the sadhus and pilgrims. The other mind-boggling facilities for this unmatched spiritual phenomenon include:
 1.  A 145 km water pipeline and 26 tube-wells to supply water.
 2.  140 km of tarmac and dirt roads.
 3.  15 temporary bridges to cross the water expanse at various points.
 4.  450 km of wire connecting 15,000 streetlights, and 35 power sub-stations.
 5.  1090 fire hydrants.
 6.  5000 telephone connections.
 7.  70 special trains, 20 shuttle trains and 10 extra stations.
 8.  17,000 toilets and 50,000 urinals.
 9.  7000 road cleaners.
10. A 100-bed hospital and 20 first-aid clinics, each with 20 beds.
11. 28 police stations and 200 police check posts.
12. Low cost food at Rs.12 per dish, in addition to the numerous alms-houses by NGO's serving free      food.
13. 1000 religious sects and organizations have arrived to participate.

Over 1000 enthusiasts have arrived from: USA, Mexico, England, France, Germany, Austria and Australia, to eagerly witness this breathtaking sight of millions of pilgrims and ascetics. According to the Times of India, the following international celebrities are also expected: Sir Paul McCartney (former Beatle), Madona, Sharon Stone, Pierce Brosnan, Demi Moore and Richard Gere.

Those who have already arrived are moved by the spirituality:

1) Molly Burton, Virginia, USA.
"I am not here as a tourist, but in search of Truth. I had heard about the Kumbh over a year ago. Since then I have been yearning to get here. I have not come here of my own will... something has brought me here... A dip in the Ganga cleans more than the body. It is spiritually purifying and has nothing to do with the bacteria in the water."

2) Josepha Joyce, Germany
"I had read about the Kumbh on the Internet and my inner voice brought me here."

3) Adrian Vilasnor, Mexico.
"Some people believe that Indians have become estranged from religion…. but look at these saffron robed people…. If you wish to see materialistic people, come to my country."

4) Yudit, Hungary (25-year-old)
"It (the dip) was heavenly."

5) Alfred (Opera singer), Vienna
"Words cannot describe how great I felt after today's dip at the Sangam. It was great."

6) Ivan (42-year-old), Czech Republic
"Ganga water cannot be dirty. I am sure it will not do any harm to me."

7) Sepp Dabringer (Trade Commissioner, Austrian embassy).
"I am here with my family to feel and understand what the Kumbh is all about."
With his 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, Dabringer has spent the whole night on the sandy riverbank, while his wife captured the big event at the Sangam with her video.
Added Dabringer, "It is simply remarkable that in a country of diversities, people belonging to different castes, creed and sex, cut across all barriers to converge here for the great festival."

Media Coverage
In addition to all Indian news networks, the following international news agencies have arrived in force: BBC, CNN, K.M.P 2001 USA, Deutchwella (Germany), Agency Francais Pressi, Japan Broadcasting Corporation.

England's BBC Channel 4 arrived 4 months ago with a crew of 50, of which 26 are Indians. It has set up its own command studio from which it relays live coverage. It telecasts 10-15 minutes of Kumbh events every weekday. On Sundays this increases to 30 minutes. Dennis White, the producer of Channel 4 says, "Nobody has given such importance to a religious function before. Fifty percent of Channel 4's budget has been allocated for only the Kumbh."

News Sources:
1 Kumbh 2001 official Website.
2 Local News Media.
3 BBC News Online.


| Kumbh Mela |
© 1999, Bochasanwasi Shree Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, Swaminarayan Aksharpith