Kumbha Mela or Kumbh Mela is a major pilgrimage and festival in the Hindu religion. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated after every 12 years cycle at four river-bank pilgrimage site. The four river-banks are Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain. The Allahabad is the bank where Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati confluence. Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain is the bank of rivers Ganges, Godavari, and Shipra, respectively.
The festival has a ritual of dipping in water. It is also a celebration of community commerce with numerous fairs, education, religious lectures by saints, mass feedings of monks or the poor, and entertainment spectacle. The seekers believe that bathing in these rivers is a means to atonement for past mistakes and that it cleanses them of their sins.
It’s about the History
The festival is credited to the 8th-century Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara, as a part of his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates along with Hindu monasteries across the Indian subcontinent. However, there is no historic learned evidence of these mass pilgrimages were called “Kumbha Mela” before the 19th-century. There is adequate evidence in historic manuscripts and engravings of an annual Magha Mela in Hinduism. Magha Mela also has periodic larger gatherings after 6 or 12 years, where pilgrims gathered in massive numbers and where one of the rituals included a sacred dip in a river or holy tank.
Why 12 years?
The weeks over which the festival is observed cycles at each site approximately once every 12 years based on the Hindu lunisolar calendar and the relative astrological positions of Jupiter, sun, and moon. The gap between Prayag and Haridwar festivals is about 6 years, and both feature a Maha (major) and Ardha (half) Kumbh Melas. The exact years, particularly for the Kumbh Melas at Ujjain and Nashik have been a subject of dispute in the 20th-century. The Nashik and Ujjain festivals have been celebrated in the same year or one year apart, typically about 3 years after the Haridwar Kumbh Mela. Elsewhere in many parts of India, similar but smaller community pilgrimage and bathing festivals are called the Magha Mela, Makar Mela, or equivalent.