The Purna Kumbh, the world’d biggest gathering of humanity at Allahabad started on January 14 on Makara Sankranti. It is estimated over100 million devotees, ranging from naked Nagas to common Hindu worshippers, streamed into the city of Allahabad to take a dip at the confluence of the rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati during Maha Kumbh Mela, starting this month. The inaugural day of the 55-day-long congregation often described as the ‘greatest show on earth’ was marked by ‘Shahi Snan’ in which Naga Sadhus marched to Sangam. The ordinary devotees and sadhus come here to experience the spiritual ecstasy the occasion offers.
According to the Bhagavada Purana, the tussle between the gods and asuras for the Amrit Kalash, the pot of nectar of immortality that emerged from the Amrit Manthan (churning of the milky ocean) is decisive to the Kumb festivities on a large scale. It is believed in the tussle, nectat spilled in four places sacred to the Hindus – Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain – the venues of the triennial Kumbh and the once-in-12-years Purna Kumbh.
In ancient times, our learned ancestors set down an elaborate 12-year cycle for a meeting ground of saints and the vast population of Hindu devotees, sanyasis and divine seekers, as an attempt to refocus and reorient the mind of the devotees distracted by day-to-day responsibilities of life, towards spirituality, clean habits and nobler instincts. This 12-year cycle was set according to planetary configurations, decided by the enlightened ancestors and holy men to be spiritually beneficial, and supposed to create a highly charged environment of spiritual energy to guide the mind towards enlightenment and deeper meaning. The Kumbh became an opportunity to pause and reflect, to reassess life’s priorities. Bathing in the Ganga is symbolic of washing away the old mind and its way of old thinking and beginning afresh with a new mind, a new attitude and a new awakening. The Kumbh helps the ordinary folks to change and be inspired by mingling with the learned ones, sadhus, sanyasis and monks in a spiritual atmosphere.
The12-year cycles of the Kumbh spread across four different pilgrim centres, ensuring a large holy and spiritual gathering every three years, is a great opportunity to seek enlightenment and insight through pilgrimage and satsang. Kumbh gathering tends to replicate the triumph of the gods over the asuras in the quest for nectar of immorality. Pilgrims dive deep into themselves through this bath, to return with a moment that takes them beyond in life, where an individual is no longer I, but a part of the collective whole. The pilgrims who have been to the Kumbh Mela speak of this new feeling and a new awakening it inspires in devotees.