From now until March, millions of people will travel to the city of Prayagraj, formerly known as Allahabad, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, India for the Kumbh Mela. Nearly, 120 million people attend this mela, or fair, over a 50 day period. That’s almost double the population of the UK or France. The Kumbh Mela is considered the world’s largest gathering of humanity. It’s a two-month long Hindu pilgrimage during which attendees bathe at the confluence of the Yamuna, Ganges, and the mythical Saraswati River. The ritual is believed to help cleanse any sins.
“The Kumbh Mela is considered the world’s largest gathering of humanity. “
The most prevalent sight is the Hindu holy men who gather here covered in ash known as “sadhus”. They gather, dressed in saffron cloth, often sporting dreadlocks, as this is an important meeting point for them organizationally. The Kumbh Mela can be a type of reunion for these sadhus as the mela is the only time they meet.
The first accounts of the Kumbh Mela are referenced by a Chinese Buddhist monk and traveler, who traveled to India from 629 to 645 A.D. But it is believed the festival has been celebrated for centuries prior. While the origins of the Kumbh Mela are uncertain, the locations where the mela is held every three years is seeded in Hindu mythology. It is believed by Hindus that Lord Vishnu after battling the demons, took the pot or “Kumbha” of Amrit, believed to grant eternal life, to the heavens on his bird-chariot Garuda. While traveling, four drops of the Amrit fell to earth at the cities of Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nasik, and Ujjain. Every three years the mela rotates between these three cities and every twelfth year, the Maha, or Great, Kumbh Mela is celebrated.
“The first accounts of the Kumbh Mela are referenced by a Chinese Buddhist monk and traveler, who traveled to India from 629 to 645 A.D. But it is believed the festival has been celebrated for centuries prior.”
To learn more, please click here to visit the official website for the Kumbh Mela