Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The Kumbh Mela (fair): Ujjain

 

The Kumbh Mela is one of the great Hindu pilgrimages in which devotees and saints gather across the country to have a holy bathe in a sacred river to attain salvation from the vicious cycle of birth-death-rebirth. It takes place at four different places- Haridwar on the bank of the river Ganges, Allahabad on the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, Nasik on the Godavari and Ujjain on the Shipra, as per position of Jupiter and sun in zodiac sign. It is held at Ujjain once in every 12 years when the zodiac sign Scorpio indicates the presence of Jupiter and the sun. Last time it was celebrated at Ujjain was in the year 2004 during 5th of April to 5th of May.

Ujjain, situated in western part of Madhya Pradesh, is one of the most sacred places of India. It is the abode of many famous temples – Bade Ganeshji Ka Mandir, Mahakaleshwar, Vikram Kirti temple and many other shrines. The city is at its most charming during Kumbh Mela when lakhs of people- ash-daubbed sages, priests, and devotees - take dips in the river Shipra.

The commemoration at Ujjain is known as ‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’. This year it will be celebrated from 22nd April to 21st May. As per Hindu theology its origin is found in one of the oldest purans- the Bhagavata Purana. When gods lost their strength by the curse of Durbhasa Muni they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Mahesh who sent them to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu advised them to churn the milk of ocean, Ksheera Sagar to get amrita (elixir of immortality). For this they needed concord with their arch rival- the Asuras (demons) to work together. They agreed on sharing the amrita. With the Mandara Mountain as a churning rod and the Vasuki, the king of serpents, as a rope for churning, Demons holding the head of Vasuki and gods tail, they churned the milk-sea for 100 years. At last, Dhanvantri appeared with Kumbh (pitcher) in his palms.

Once the amrita was available, the fight for its possession began between demons and gods. For safety, it was handed over to gods Brahspati, Surya, Shani and Chandra. Comprehending the conspiracy hatched by the gods, Demons attacked them vigorously. Gods knew demons had more power so they ran with amrita to hide it somewhere. Demons began chasing and fought with gods for 12 days and 12 nights which was equivalent to 12 human-years. While fighting in the sky for the pitcher full of elixir, some drops of elixir fell down from the Kumbh (pitcher) at the four places on the earth. So at these four places Kumbh fair is celebrated once in every 12 years.

It is believed that to bathe in the sacred river has purifying effects whereas bathing during Kumbh Mela (fair) increases its effects. Even sprinkles of water have those effects. So people sprinkle waters on those who are not in a condition to take a bath.

As it dawns, the preponderance of devotees come to the river Shipra to have their holy bath. People dances in rapture, bands play with uproaring of elephants and camels, colourful flags and posters unfurl above the crowd. The procession proclaims the commencement of Kumbh Mela. At centre are Nagas, naked priests. With convoluted long hair, long and thick moustache and beard dangling unto chest, bodies smeared with ashes, and their tridents raised high, they land up for bathing. They renounce the world in search of equilibrium, practicing celibacy and non-accumulation of material possession. They blow conchshells and chant in chorus, “Shiva ki jai (Shiva is the great)”. They splash water on each other and play like children that symbolize them as liberationists.

There are many other things to attract audiences. The dramas based on stories from ancient epics- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are being played. The preaching are being sermonized by saints before devotees. Some places Indian drama and classical dance groups are also being performed.

Some pilgrims come to have bath on special days like Poornima (full moon), Shukla Tritiya or Akshaya Tritiya. Some come for the whole duration and either make camps at the ground or stay in hotels. Even children are brought to have blessings on auspicious days!

The auspicious days for holy bath at Ujjain Kumbh Mela (2016) are as follows:



























22 April 2016 (Friday) PurnimaFull Moon (First Snan)

 
06 May 2016 (Friday) Amavasya

 
Viashakh Krishna Amavasya

 
09 May 2016

(Monday)

 
Shukla/ Akshaya Trirtiya (Second Snan)
11 May 2016 (Wednesday)Shukla Panchami
17 May 2016 (Saturday)Ekadashi & Pradosh Snan
21 May 2016 (Saturday)Purnima

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