The term ‘Kumbh Mela’ is a compound word, in which ‘Kumbh’ means pitcher and ‘Mela’ means fair. Kumbh Mela is thus the largest peaceful fair in the world in remembrance of the event when the demons and gods were fighting over the kumb (pitcher of nectar) for their immorality.
It is one of the biggest event of Hindu community where people come together to take a dip in holy rivers. It is held at four places which are Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain in every three years in rotation. These are pilgrimage places and home to sacred rivers. Ganges River flows in Haridwar, Godavari is in Nashik, the Shipra is in Ujjain and at Allahabad, the confluence of three rivers GangaGanga
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Variations in Kumbh Mela
Despite of the regular fairs that take place in every three auspicious years at the above-mentioned places, Kumbh Mela is also divided in further categories. Ardh (Half) Kumbh Mela takes place in Haridwar and Allahabad in every six years, in rotation of the venue. Purna (full, in terms of a complete year) Kumbh Mela takes place only in Allahabad in every 12 years. The most auspicious and grand fair is Maha (Great) Kumbh Mela that takes places only in Allahabad in every 144 years.
Every third year, the site for the celebration is decided after a deep study of astrological positions of the Sun, the Moon, and the Jupiter. When the Sun and Jupiter are in the Zodiac sign Leo then the event takes place in Nashik. Haridwar is chosen when the Sun is in Aries and Jupiter in Aquarius. Ujjain becomes the destination when the Sun is in Aries and Jupiter in Leo and when the Sun and Jupiter are in Capricorn and Taurus respectively then the fair takes place in Allahabad.
According to legends, when Samudra Manthan took place, various kinds of things came out of the milky ocean. Gods and demons churned the ocean for thousand years and finally the elixir of immortality came out in a Kumbh (pitcher). The demi gods were scared of the results if the nectar would have been consumed by demons therefore they entrusted its safety to four gods named Brihaspati (Jupiter), Surya (Sun), Shani and Chandra (Moon).
Demons were furious and wanted the nectar for themselves. They decided to chase gods and snatch it from them. It is believed that they followed Gods for 12 days and 12 nights which are equivalent to 12 human years. While the gods were protecting the elixir and running away with it, drops of the nectar fell at four places and these were the places mentioned above. Since then it is believed that these four places have mystical qualities and people from all around the globe come together to celebrate the big event.
People in large number get collected at the venue and take bath in the holy rivers to cleanse their past evil deeds. They pray to the Sun god in the early morning by offering water and flowers to him and ask for the welfare of themselves and their families. They also believe that by taking a dip in the sacred rivers, they will be able to attain salvation. People sing and dance in the name of gods. In some places, colors and flowers are thrown at each other to express their joy. Pilgrims smear their foreheads with sacred ashes. Some ascetics roam about naked, without any piece of cloth in order to show their separation from the materialist world and closeness to the spiritual one.
Many sadhus (sages) or religious holy men are asked for their advice in matters of family, business or spiritual enlightenment. People touch their feet and offer gifts or money in exchange of their help through the usage of their divine powers.