Religious chants, evening aartis, ash smeared sadhus, energy bustling crowd are some of the things that come to your mind when you think of the Kumbh Mela. The Kumbh Mela, world’s largest religious gathering of people, held on rotation at four different places namely Allahabad (Prayagraj), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik in 3/4, 6- and 12-years interval is also recognized by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
There are two types of Kumbh Melas – Ardh Kumbh Mela which takes place every 6 years and a Maha Kumbh Mela which occurs every 12 years. The Ardh Kumbh Mela takes place at only two of the four places, at Allahabad and Haridwar. This year, Allahabad is all set to host the Ardh Kumh Mela, a roughly two months event from 15thJanuary – 4thMarch 2019.
History of Kumbh Mela
According to Hindu mythology, a fight broke out between Suras (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) while they were churning the ocean to extract Ambrosia (Amrit) in what is known as Samudra Manthan. The procured amrit was then collected in a kumbh. To keep the kumbh safe from the asura’s reach, Garuda (Lord Vishnu’s vehicle) took the pot and flew away. During this flight, it is believed that four drops fell down, in Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik, thus making these places along with the rivers flowing in these cities holy. The Kumbh Mela is thus celebrated with a lot of zeal and spirituality in these places.
Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019
Allahabad marks for not only a holy site but also a picturesque one, given that it is seated on the banks of the confluence between Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The mela is attended in lakhs of people who come together and are united by their religious beliefs. There are a lot of things that happen at this mela that are captivating.
The Shahi Snan or the Religious Bath is a bath in the Ganga river by immersing your entire body in the water to wash away your sins which is a common religious belief. It is a ritual at the mela that common devotees can take this shahi snan only after the sadhus are done doing so themselves. The sadhus wake up as early as at 3 am to do so. Once they have completed their bath, the devotees can then follow in their footsteps.
Shahi snan dates of Kumbh Mela 2019
1stShahi Snan: 14th/15thJanuary
2ndShahi Snan: 4thFebruary (Mauni Amavasya – most important snan date)
3rdShahi Snan: 10thFebruary
Naga sadhus are a common and widely photographed tribe of the sadhus at the Kumbh mela. They usually have matt hair and ash smeared naked bodies as they keep chanting their prayers softly.
Akharas are meeting places where religious groups gather. There are two main religious groups at this mela – followers of Lord Shiva and followers of Lord Vishnu. Thus, the akharas are also separate of these two groups.
Satsangs are holy meetings where sadhus and devotees gather, where the former preach. There are a lot of these halls at the melas where devotees can go offer their prayers. These satsangs can also provide good photo opportunities of sadhus, on request.
Allahabad takes altogether different shades and colours during this Kumbh Mela. The city starts bustling with noise and stays awake for all twenty-four hours throughout these two months. While the daytime can be quite crowded, the nights are equally peaceful, along the Triveni ghat which also provides for a beautiful setting.
Multiple campsites are set up during the mela for sadhus and devotees alike. Depending upon your preferences, there are also a few royal and luxury camps set up near the river bank where you can observe the mela from up and close. These camps are also a good way to mingle with people from different walks of life.
How to reach
The Allahabad domestic airport is operational only for the domestic flights, connecting to a very limited number of cities in the country. The other airports, namely Lal Bahadur Shastri Airport in Varanasi and Amausi International Airport in Lucknow are better options as they connect the major cities across India. However, you will have to take a cab or bus from the airport to reach the Kumbh Mela.
There are 10 main railway stations connecting Allahabad to the main cities of India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata which makes the commute by train as a reasonable option. The Indian Railways also announces special extra trains to aide and solve transportation issues of thousands of pilgrims.
Reaching Allahabad by road can also be a suitable option since the region is well connected to all the major cities of the state and neighbouring states by a well maintained and an efficient network of roads.