Kumbh Mela is the single largest religious congregation, or in fact, human gathering of any kind on earth. Since ancient times Sadhus, Emperors, Ascetics, Saints, Sages and House-Holders have collected by the holy water of four sacred rivers at specific dates to receive the Nectar of Immortality. These holy men and women live in ways we could barely imagine. This book introduces us to Naga Sanyasis, followers of the Hindu Lord Shiva, during the most holy moments of the Hindu calendar.
During the divine alignment of the Sun, the Moon and Jupiter, the Nectar of Immortality flows down from heaven at specific holy places. Since prehistoric times men and women from all over the world, have journeyed to convene at four sacred locations in the quest for immortality. Maha Kumbh Mela Prayag 2001 attracted a record gathering of over 60 million pilgrims and this figure was surpassed and reached 80 million in Kumbh Mela Haridwar 2010.
Exotically transporting eyewitness accounts and photographs! Go inside the private tents of the most revered Sadhus: Nagas (naked, ash-smeared ascetics), known for their strange practices and martial power. This book reveals their incredible initiation ceremonies, wild linga feats, royal processions, bathing, temple worship and funeral rites of the most unusual Sadhus.
About the Author
Travelling to Allahabad Maha Kumbh Mela 2001 with their parents, the India born authors Badri narain and kedar Narain,Natives ofVaranaso, took keen interest into the holy men of Kumbh mela and their religious practices allowed specialentry within the private akharas, they saw what few have ever seen and they documented unique events that illustrate the unusual lifestyle of the reclusive ascetics. We are privileged to share their photographs and notes and witness a part of Kumbh Mela behind the scenes with a look into the sadhus lived during the most sacred moments at locations around the river Ganga.
Kumbh is the oldest religious gathering known to man. Even looking into the deepest depths of ancient history it is almost impossible to pin a date on the exact origin. Not only was this gathering attended by holy men of all castes and creeds but by kings, nobles and the public at large, who made it a focus of pilgrimage.
Another fact that we have to realize is that this gathering was essentially one of religious personages who came together to discuss points of theology and philosophy with each other. It may be said that it was treated as a parliament or forum of religion where differences of belief and practice could be rationalized. There are many references to this gathering not only in historical records but also in the Hindu Mythology the most consistent being the references to the churning of the ocean in search of the nectar hidden within. The subsequent chase and conflict between the Gods and Demons for possession of the nectar and the four places where the pot or Kumbh containing the nectar of immortality was spilt indicate the locations of the Kumbh gatherings.
Historical references supported by already established diaries of travellers and other known figures help us to trace the origins of Kumbh. In more recent times, we of course have more detailed records of the number of people who have attended the various Kumbhs as well as the costs and preparations involved. The importance of Kumbh to the Hindu world is patently obvious when we see the numbers of the people who visit the Mela ground during the months of festivities and take part in the various auspicious occasions that occur during this period. It is also a fact that other than the occasion of Kumbh, the annual Magh fair is also held on the same ground at Prayag, and the auspicious bathing days are observed on an annual basis.
The Kumbh has now become a focal point for people the world over, many of whom visit the various Kumbhs on a regular basis. It is also surprising that there are those from the west who have adopted the Hindu way of life and who camp at this fair, bringing with them their own followers who have gathered around them. Though this gathering was related to the holy men and some also say the Gods as well as the kings and queens of ancient history, it has now become an international event closely watched by the world at large.
Kumbh in Sanskrit refers to a 'pot' or a pitcher and the word mela in Sanskrit means a 'gathering' or a 'fair' . The historic origin of the Kumbh Mela dates back to Vedic times when the gods and demons were fighting for a pot of nectar (Amrit Kumbh — the nectar of immortality). Lord Vishnu, disguising himself as an enchantress, Mohini, seized the nectar from the demons. While fleeing from them, Lord Vishnu passed the nectar on to his winged mount, Garuda. The demons finally caught up with Garuda and in the ensuing struggle, a few drops of the precious nectar fell at Allahabad, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain. Since then, the Kumbh Mela has been held in all these places, alternatively, every 12 years.
It is believed that to participate in the Kumbh is to gain Salvation, getting rid of ones burden of accumulated sins. For thousands of years, people from all castes, religious beliefs, and social levels have gathered at the Kumbh Mela. According to the Vish Puran, the Bhagvad Puran, the Mahabharata and the Ramayan, Kumbh Parva is being celebrated since pre-historic times. There is such extravaganza like the Kumbh Mela anywhere else in the world.
The Kumbh Mela begins on the full moon night (Purnima) of the month of Paush, occurring roughly between 22 December and 20 January. While the Kumbh Mela is held at Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik every four years, the Kumbh at Prayag has a special significance. The Kumbh Mela is marked by the fact that it is held at the banks of holy rivers every 12 years. In Prayag, however, it is held on the banks of the rivers Ganges-Yamuna, with the underground Saraswati joining in. In Haridwar it is held at Ganges, in Ujjain at river Kshipra and in Nasik at the Godavari. A great fair is held on these occasions on the banks of these rivers with a huge congregation of devoted pilgrims. The Prayag Kumbh is also considered to be the most significant because it marks the direction of wisdom or light. This is the place where the sun, symbolizing wisdom, rises.
It is noteworthy that in the year 2001 at Prayag, approximately 60 million pilgrims came to the Mahakumbh, a world record for a human gathering. Then in 2010 in Haridwar, the numbers reached up to eighty million and yet again established a new record.
For the first time in the history of Sanatana Dharma, the idol of Lord 77rupati Balaji was brought from South India to Haridwar for bathing in the Ganges. Also, the divine light (Jyoti) of Tripur Sundari, the Shakti of Lord Shiva was brought from district Kamroop of Assam to the Haridwar Kumbh. If seen from the perspective of Tantra Vidya (Occult Science), this is a very blissful coincidence. On this grand occasion, personalities like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev, Swami Chidanand Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan, former Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhariyal `Nishank' and other prominent personalities from different fields gathered at Rishikesh and resolved to conserve and protect Mother Ganga.
For the Haridwar Kumbh Mela 2010 all the responsibilities were taken over by the Chief Minister Dr. Ramesh Pokhariyal, who oversaw the event in an excellent and effective manner. His associates Sri Madan Kaushik (Minister for Urban Development, Tourism, Sugarcane Development, Sugar Industry and Excise) and Sri Subash Kumar (Principal Secretary to the CM) approved a budget of Rs. 5.65 billion for the Kumbh Mela from which 321 building projects were completed. 3500 security personnel from Uttar Pradesh, 10,000 from Uttarakhand, and 5,500 from other states were deployed. With the use of 87,000 vehicles (heavy and light) and 200 trains, the pilgrims, tourist and others arrived and departed. For the first time in the history of the Kumbh Mela, lifeguards saved around 800 lives from drowning. People from 140 countries gathered at the Haridwar Kumbh, including approximately 2,200 media persons working in 30 national and international languages. By providing the food, camps and transportation facilities to eighty million people, the State of Uttarakhand has set an example of cooperation, coordination, harmony, and patience.
After participating in Haridwar Kumbh Mela, citizens of all countries would have surely learned and experienced some new things, which will hopefully effect the peace, prosperity and stability of every nation of the world. We believe that the Kumbh Mela will work as a 'life-giving herb' (Sanjeevini) for the future of Humanity which is deep in the clutches of war, exploitation, poverty, hunger, racism, ill-health, etc. The Kumbh Mela should be bestowed with the Noble Peace Prize.
The Kumbh as a Tirtha (holy place of pilgrimage) is a sacred occasion of collective consciousness where all have the same thought and intention to observe God in the moment. The Kumbh holds the presence of all the Tirthas. It is an identified infinite power for the use of the masses. Kumbh combines an assembly of royalty, householders, ascetics and renunciates on one religious platform, irrespective of background, caste or creed. It is holy to all. It is Prayag.
No religious congregation in the world's history has achieved such numbers as the Kumbh in India. No mass pilgrimage to any other Tirtha is enriched with the capacity to provide such qualities in full measure—salvation, peace, satisfaction and much more—as Kumbh at Prayag on the bank of the holiest of the holy rivers, the Ganga. The feeling gained by the devotee here is beyond that gained at any other city or at the temple of any other God. The satisfaction gained by devotees after a holy dip during Kumbh is much greater than any bath anywhere else on any sacred day. Kumbh is above any individual sect nor is there any devotee who is not allowed to participate.
Only during colonial times there was restriction imposed. The devotees in India who took a holy bath at the confluence of Prayag during Kumbh in order to satisfy their religious faith, were at that time, had to pay the severe taxes levied by the British Colonial Rulers. Every man, even the poorest beggar, was asked to pay a tax of one rupee for the liberty to take a bath there. Kumbh is something to be celebrated, enjoyed and experienced by all. Goswami Tulsidasa has written in praise of the religious spot of Prayag where the Kumbh is held and he expressed his inability to explain the grace and impact of the holy city Prayag, in his verse in Ram Charit Manasa;' `Ko Kahi Sake Prayag Prabhau' asks 'who can completely explain the grace of Prayag?'
Kumbh is widely termed as a Parva, a holy event, and sometimes the greatest of all sacred events, a Maha Parva. Kumbh is an auspicious moment, a fraction of time when the Planets in the sky are in a leveraged position to influence the inner soul of living creatures.
Kumbh Parva first appears in the Vedic religious texts, where it is written Mrityor Ma Athritam Gamaya, meaning let nature move humanity from death to immortality. Amrita (nectar) implies beyond any death. Kumbh commemorates that Amrita—Elixir of Immortality. The quest for Amrita Kumbh is associated with the story of the churning of the ocean and subsequent fight between Gods and Demons chasing each other around heaven and earth after the pitcher containing Amrita. The pitcher containing the elixir of immortality was the vessel called Kumbh. We find another mention of Amrita in the holy text of the Ramayana, where the demon king Ravana held Nectar within his Navel.
Kumbh Prayag An astronomical combination of the planets causes the holy event, Kumbh Parva. The Gods secured the pot (Kumbh/Kalasha) and protected it from breaking or being taken over by Demons. However, during the subsequent chase, few drops of the nectar spilled out.
These zones where the nectar spilled out of the Kumbh became the earthly centres where the auspicious moment Kumbh Parva is to be memorially obsen)ed. Two of the zones are on the bank of the river Ganga and the Kumbh at Prayag is ranked as the most important spiritual and religious gathering anywhere. The monks call it Rajrajeshwari.
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