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January 2010
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Maha Kumb Mela Haridwar 2010

MahaKumb Mela 2010 in Haridwar(January 14 to April 28)
  Braving the winter chill,thousands of devotees on Thursday took a holy dip in the Ganga in Haridwar heralding the start of the three-month-long Maha Kumbh, considered the largest religious congregation that takes place once in 12 years.  With the sun rise at about 0645 hours, devotees, who had started lining up along the streets of Haridwar leading to various ghats, took the dip on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’ — known as Uttarayan in other parts of the country, the day when the sun starts to move northwards marking the decline of winter.Men, women and children outnumbered the sadhus, who are expected to throng the city only after January 26 as the official entrance of the ‘akharas’ will begin then.

The first ‘shahi snan’ or royal bath is scheduled for February 12 when the akhara chiefs also join the devotees. Many foreigners who were seen in the queue also took bath.The roads leading to nearly 300 ghats have a heavy police presence that has turned the Haridwar into a fortress. Barricades have been set up to control the flow of crowds. The traffic in the city has come to a halt with no vehicles being allowed to ply.

“It is something that I always wanted to do. I never got a chance but now I have closed my business till February 12 and have come here with my family. The water is very cold but I am happy that I undertook this journey,” Vijai Raj Shankar Sharma, a devotee from Uttar Pradesh, said.

People with folded hands and a prayer on their lips walked along the roads as the ghats echoed with Vedic hymns, bells and conch shells, leaving an enchanting spell.Spread over an area of 130 sq km, the Kumbh has been divided into 12 zones and 32 sectors with heavy presence of police personnel. Thirty-four police stations and 42 makeshift posts have been set up besides the 36 temporary fire stations.

Main Bathing dates

  14 January 2010 (Thursday) – Makar Sankranti – First Snan
This is the first of the big bathing days. According to Hindu Astrology, on this day the Sun enters the constellation Capricorn. This day is celebrated all over India.

15 January 2010 (Friday) – Mauni Amavasya and Surya Grahan (Solar Eclipse) – Second Snan
This is “New Moon of the Saints.” For the holy men and women this is a main bathing day where they participated in gilded and naked processions. It is also a day when new members to various holy monastic orders receive their first initiation.

20 January 2010 (Wednesday) – Vasant Panchami – Third Snan
This is the fifth day of the bright half of the lunar month and is the beginning of spring in North India. Traditionally people wear yellow on this day. It is day when people prayed to the Gods for a good bumper harvest.

30 January 2010 – (Saturday) Magh Purnima – Fourth Snan
This is the full moon in the month of Magha (January – February). Winter is a memory and the moon shines over the two holy rivers.

12 to 13 February 2007 (Friday) – Mahashivratri – Pratham Shahi Snan – First Royal Bath -
This is the Great Night of Shiva, the Naked One, from whose dreadlocks the Ganges flows. He married Parvati, daughter of the Himalayas on this day. Shiva has many followers, none more so than the naked Naga sadhus who live life in imitation of him.

15 March 2010 (Monday)- Somvati Amavasya – Dvitya Shahi Snan – Royal Bath for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects
The no moon day on a Monday is such an auspicious event that the river Ganga, the divine cosmos, along with all the revered pilgrimages on this earth, shower exceptional spiritual benediction on anyone who performs worship, japa, or meditation on this auspicious day. The significance of this day is equivalent to the auspiciousness of a Solar Eclipse. Taking a holy dip, performance of charitable acts and Shraddha (giving oblations in the name of manes) on this day is considered perennial & everlasting. Observance of vow of silence followed by a holy dip in the sacred waters bestows the person with the meritorious effect equivalent to that of giving a thousand cows in donation.

24 March 2010 (Wednesday) – Ram Navami – Fifth Snan
A famous Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Lord Rama. It is auspicious to undertake a fast on this day in the name of Rama. Many devotees fast for nine days, beginning on Ugadi (first day of Indian year) to Rama Navami. The objective of the fast is to seek perfection as a human being.

30 March 2010 (Tuesday) – Chaitra Purnima Snan: Royal Bath for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects
The full moon day of Chaitra month is particularly sacred to the Chitra Guptas, the recording angels of the Hindu pantheon. A special worship is offered to these celestial representatives of the god of death, and an offering of spiced rice is prepared and later distributed as prasad or holy sacrament. A fire worship is done at the close of the ritualistic worship. This is also the birthday of the monkey God Hanuman, who symbolizes strength, unparalleled devotion, and selfless service. A fast is often observed on this date, and mantras to Hanuman are chanted.

14 April 2010 (Wednesday) – Amavasya of Krishna Paksh (dark fortnight) of month of Baisakh (Vaisakha or Jyeshtha) – Pramukh Shahi Snan:MAIN ROYAL BATH for six Akharas of Vaishnav and Udasi sects
The no moon day in the month of Vaisakh is the festival of Vata Savitri Vratam. It is a fast day observed by all Hindu married women for their husbands’ good health and longevity. In early morning, women take purificatory bath and wear new clothes. Savitri is worshipped and fruits are offered to the goddess. In the afternoon, they bow to their respective husbands and elderly people.

28 April 2010 (Wednesday) – Vaishakha (Shakh) Purnima – Snan
The full moon day, last auspicious bathing date of the Kumbh festival, marks the three major events in Lord Buddha’s life: His birth, enlightenment and death. Observance of Satyanarayana Swamy Vratam and Vishnu Pujas are done on this day.

Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage. It occurs after every twelve years and rotates among four locations: Prayag (Allahabad) at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna and mythical Saraswati river, Haridwar along the Ganga river, Ujjain along the Kshipra river and Nashik along the Godavari river.

The Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag, while the Purna (complete) Kumbh takes place at four places Prayag (Allahabad),Haridwar,Ujjain,and Nashik after every twelve years. Over 45 days beginning in January 2007, more than 17 million Hindu pilgrims took part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag, and on January 15, the most auspicious day of the festival of Makar Sankranti, more than 5 million participated.

The Maha Kumbh Mela which comes after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’ which is after every 144 years is also held at Allahabad. The 2001, Maha Kumbh Mela was attended by around 60 million people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.

Timing
According to Indian astrology, it is celebrated when the planet of Brhaspati (Jupiter) moves into the zodiac sign of Aquarius or Kumbha. Each sites celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon, and Jupiter.

 Etymology
 Kumbha is a Sanskrit word for Pitcher(actually a roundish pot wid no handles), sometimes referred to as the Kalasha, it is also a zodiac sign in Indian astrology for Aquarius, the sign under which the festival is celebrated, while Mela means ‘a gathering’ or ‘a meet’, or simply a fair.
 

History
The observance of Kumbh Mela dates back many centuries in Ancient India, to the Vedic period, where the river festivals first started getting organised. In Hindu mythology, its origin is found the one of the popular creation myths and the Hindu theories on evolution, the Samudra manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), which finds mention in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

The Gods had lost their strength, and to regain it, they thought of churning the Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) for amrit (the nectar of immortality), this required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the demons or Asuras to work together, with a promise of sharing the nectar equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha of elixir, and that is when drops of amrita fell at four places on earth: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik, and that is where the Kumbh Mela is observed every twelve years.

First written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveller, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana According to The Imperial Gazetteer of India, an outbreak of cholera occurred at the 1892 Mela at Haridwar, which lead to the rapid improvement of arrangement by the authorities and the formation of Haridwar Improvement Society, and in 1903 about 400,000 people attended the fair. During the 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede at Allahabad, around 500 people were killed, and scores were injured. Ten million people gathered at Haridwar for the Kumbh on April 14, 1998.

 
The 1998 Kumbh Mela saw over 10 million pilgrims visiting Hardwar, to take a dip in the holy river, Ganga. In 2001, around 1 million people from outside of India and from around the world participated in the ‘Maha Kumbh Mela’ at Prayag (Allahabad). The dates for this mela were special due to the planetary positions that repeat only once in 144 years. In 2007, over 60 million people are expected to have attended the holy gathering.

The Ritual
Kumbh Mela is attended by millions of people on a single day. The major event of the festival is a ritual bath at the banks of the rivers in each town. Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, mass feeding of holy men and women and the poor, and religious assemblies where doctrines are debated and standardized.Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Thousands of holy men and women (monks, saints and sadhus) attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with plenty of ashes and powder dabbed on their skin per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some called naga sanyasis may often be seen without any clothes even in severe winter, generally considered to live an extreme lifestyle. After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain wrote:“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”

Kalpavãsa VratÂ
A unique feature of the Indian Bathing Festivals – Kumbha (Kumbh) Mela, Magha Mela, Etc. is that of the Kalpavãsis – those undergoing the Kalpavãsa VratÂ, who present a scene of Vãnaprasthãshrama Dharma (retired forest life prescribed in the Vedas for couples). The Kalpavãsis spend the Kumbha (Kumbh) Mela living an austere and minimalistic life.Most of them stay in thatched huts, sleep on sandy river beds, listen to discourses, assimilate the essence of Dharma and give alms. Some of them bathe in the holy river thrice daily and eat only once.These are general guidelines; however we understand the modern urban life is very demanding and has become highly mechanical, many of us may neither have the time nor the inclination to fulfil the extreme form of austerities performed by the Traditional Kalpavãsis (some of them take a vow at every single Kumbh (Kumbh) Mela, which roughly falls once every three years)The idea is to get away from the everyday mundane existence and observe and absorb the true meaning of life by the learning from the religious gurus, interacting with other Kalpavãsis, experiencing the cultures, traditions and heritage from every part of India at one single place and maintaining a single minded devotion to the understanding of the Absolute-Truth.

Recent Kumbh Melas

1894
According to Paramahansa Yogananda in his work the Autobiography of a Yogi, it was on the Kumbha Mela in January 1894 at Prayag that his Guru Sri Yukteswar met Mahavatar Babaji for the first time.

2001 at Prayag
In 2001, Kumbhmela was held in Prayag. It is estimated that about 60 million people took a bath in the river Ganges on the occasion. It was extraordinary in terms of arrangement and discipline.

2003 at Nashik
When the Kumbh Mela was held in Nashik, India, from July 27 to September 7, 2003, 39 pilgrims (28 women and 11 men) were trampled to death and 57 were injured (keeping in mind that the number of devotees attending the fair was around 70 million). Devotees had gathered on the banks of the Godavari river for the maha snaan or holy bath. Over 30,000 pilgrims were being held back by barricades in a narrow street leading to the Ramkund, a holy spot, so the sadhus could take the first ceremonial bath. Reportedly, a sadhu threw some silver coins into the crowd and the subsequent scramble led to the stampede.

2004 at Ujjain
The Simhastha Kumbh at Ujjain in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is an event, which the devout Hindus wait for 12 years. The month-long congregation brings together millions of people from across India and abroad. Driven by faith and the quest for inner peace, they converge on this holy city to be a part of a unique bathing festival. Braving the scorching sun of April-May the devotees enjoy the company of seers and saints, listen to religious discourses, witness the Ramlilas and Raslilas, visit the various “akharas”, watch the grand processions of “sadhus” and take holy dips in the Sipra river. They imbibe the spirit of the devotion-filled ambience where Lord Shiva is omnipresent. The sea of humanity gets harmonized into a single entity, overcoming all divisive thoughts. To them this is a lifetime experience.

Bath Calendar The Ujjain Simhastha began with the first “shahi snan” (royal bath) on April 5, 2004, Chaitra Shukla Purnima, Monday, Vikrami Samvat 2061. It will end with the third shahi snan on May 4 corresponding to Vaishakh Shukla Purnima, Thursday, Vikrami Samvat 2061. In between, there would be the second shahi snan on April 22, 2004, Vaishakh Shukla Tritiya, Thursday, Vikrami Samvat 2061. Besides, the two parva snans would be on April 19, 2004, Vaishakh Krishna Amavasya, Monday, Vikrami Samvat 2061 and on April 24, 2004, Vaishakh Shukla Panchami, Saturday, Vikrami Samvat 2061.

The Holy Dip in Sipra The significance of a bath in the Sipra can be gauged from a verse in the Skanda Purana. According to it “The holy bath of the Kumbh equals in piety to thousands of Kartik snans, hundred Magh snans and crores of Narmada snans during the month of Vaishakh. The fruits of Kumbh snan are equal to the fruits of thousands of Ashvamedh Yajna and lakhs of journeys around the earth”. Elaborate arrangements have been made for the convenience of pilgrims.

The History & Geography of Ujjain Ujjain, the city of Mahakal, previously known as Avanti, Kushsthali, Kanashringa, Bhaumvati, Padmavati, Pratikalpa, Amaravati, Vishala, Avantika and Ujjayani is considered to be among the holiest cities in India. The only south-facing idol of Mahakaleshwar, regarded as the God of all the deities and demons alike, is situated at Ujjain. The Adi Purana describes Ujjain as the most sacred city on the earth. The city has been a seat of learning where all disciplines of knowledge have flourished since time immemorial.

Situated along the banks of the Sipra, the city has been eulogized by great poets like Vedavyasa and Kalidasa. Vikramaditya, the legendary emperor, ruled the city with his famous Navratnas (nine jewels) including Kalidasa, Shanku, Dhanvantari, Betalbhatta, Varruchi, Varahmihir, Kshapdak, Ghatkarpar and Amar Singh who epitomised different branches of knowledge.

Ujjain is located on the Tropic of Cancer, the prime meridian of India. The Vikram Samvatsar originated in this ancient city. According to Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, “there is something very striking about the consistency of Ujjain’s dominance in Indian time accounting.” The city was an important centre of astronomy in the Gupta period. Varahmihir, the renowned astronomer, had worked in Ujjain. In the 18th century, Maharaja Jai Singh of Jaipur constructed the famous observatory at Ujjain to encourage astronomical studies and to popularize astronomy amongst the people

2007 at Prayag
  Every six years there is an Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag (also known as Allahabad). The actual dates are dependent on stellar constellations and were announced as below:

Important bathing dates

* 3 Jan (Paush Purnima)
* 14 Jan (Makar Sankranti)
* 19 Jan (Mauni Amavasya)
* 23 Jan (Basant Panchami)
* 2 Feb (Magh Purnima)

 
  Future

  Prayag (Purna Kumbha Mela) in the year 2013 (January 27-February 25), 10th is the main bathing date.

Nashik (Ardh Kumbha Mela) in 2015 (August 15 to September 13), Sep 13 is the main date for bathing ceremony.

Ujjain (Ardh Kumbh Mela) in 2016 (April 22 to May 21), May 21 is the main bathing date.

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