Ardh Kumbh Mela – 2019
A Kumbh Mela is a mammoth/ mass gathering of Hindu pilgrims who collectively take a dip/ have a bath in a holy or sacred river. Bathing in these rivers is believed to wash away the sins of devotees. Traditionally, four Kumbh Melas are held all over India; the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha and Ujjain Simhastha. These fairs are held in rotation, periodically, at any one of the following places; Allahabad, Haridwar, Nashik district and Ujjain. At any of these places, the Kumbh Mela (called Purna Kumbh or Full Kumbha) is held every 12 years and the Ardh Kumbh Mela takes place every 6 years between the two Purna Kumbh Melas at Haridwar and Allahabad.
This year the Ardh Kumbh Mela kicked off in Allahabad on the 15th of January 2019. The fair usually begins with a grand procession in the city, called Peshwai (Praveshai) where pilgrims from around the world are invited to join in the proceedings. Monks and hermits from all over India and the world gather at this Mela, riding horses, elephants and carriages with bands in tow. These holy men from different akharas, dressed in saffron cloth and smeared with vibhuti ash, announce their arrival enthusiastically and with great zeal. Some of the sadhus (naga sadhus) may not wear any clothes at all and this is considered perfectly fine as it indicates detachment from the material world. The main ritual at this event is bathing at the banks of the river in whichever town the Kumbh Mela is being held, in this case the Sangam in Allahabad.
Various pandals hosting cultural events like musical performances and folk dances, spiritual discourses and other events are set up on the banks of the Ganga. Walks through the temples, forts and holy tanks are arranged for tourists. This year, the UP State Government has also arranged a sound and laser light show on the walls of the Prayagraj Fort for all pilgrims, in the hope of improving tourism in the city. Various other activities like devotional singing, religious discussions, mass feeding of the holy people as well as the poor people and debates on various principles and beliefs are carried out. This year, cruise services are being offered on the Yamuna river along the Sangam Ghat for the entire duration of the Kumbh Mela.
‘Darshan’ is another important aspect of the Mela where the Hindu public or pilgrims are allowed to interact with the holy men or ‘sadhus’ and seek advice or instruction for their spiritual lives. This process is carefully managed in camps and worshippers often leave token offerings for the sadhus. The entire period of Kumbh Mela is considered very sacred, however there are certain days which have a special spiritual significance and are of great importance. In this years Ardh Kumbh Mela, those days fall on the following dates:
15th January – Makar Sankranti
21st January – Paush Purnima
4th February – Mauni Amavasya
10th February – Basant Panchami
19th February – Maghi Poornima and
4th March – Maha Shivratri.
This is the last day of the Kumbh Mela and is celebrated with much fervor as it denotes the overcoming of/ triumph over darkness.
How to reach the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad this year:
By Air – The closest airport from Allahabad is the Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport in Varanasi. From here one can hire taxis to reach Triveni Sangam in Allahabad.
By Train – Allahabad has great rail connectivity with different parts of India, either directly or indirectly. From Allahabad railway station, one can board a State Transport Bus or hire an autorickshaw or private taxi and reach Triveni Sangam.
By Bus – The Allahabad bus depot is very well serviced by regular buses from major cities in North India.
Plenty of staying options are made available during the mela and one can check these out on the official website of Kumbh Mela, hosted by the State Government.
Picture Credits : Pragativadi.com