Kumbh Mela is a fair of mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith where Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. The four fair are widely recognised as traditional Kumbh Melas, the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha and the Ujjain Simhastha. These four fairs occur four times within a 12-year period at one of the places depending upon the position of the Sun, Moon and Jupiter in zodiacs.
The festivals held on the banks of river, the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Kshipra at Ujjain.
The Mythological significance of Kumbh revolves around the story of the samudra manthan or ocean churning. The Gods and Demons were done this to obtain the invaluable ratnas and amrita. Jayant (son of lord Indra) emerged with the Amrit kalash, catching sight of the amrita kalasa demon wanted to snatch it from the hands of God. The Jayanta kept on running for 12 days to avoid amrit kalasha to fall in the hands of demons. The four places where Jayanta had put down the amrit kalasha in these twelve years were Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain. The position of the sun, moon and planets were in unique astrological combination that has been following to determine the dates of Kumbh mela.
“Kumbh” is a Sanskrit word which means for pitcher (Kalasha). “Kumbh” is also a zodiac sign in Indian Astrology for Aquarius. “Mela” means a gathering or meet or simply a fair.
It is believed and mentioned in Holy Scriptures that mouth (opening) of pitcher symbolizes the presence of Vishnu, its neck that of Rudra, the base of Brahama, all goddesses in the centre and the entire oceans in the interior, thus encompassing all the four Vedas.
The Sanskrit word for “Kumbh” also means human body. It refers to a womb, bounty, earth. It is a receptacle that holds life, spirits, water, Amrita, the elixir.
पद्मिनी नायके मेषे कुम्भ राशि गते गुरोः ।
गंगा द्वारे भवेद योगः कुम्भ नामा तथोत्तमाः।। “
मकरे च दिवा नाथे ह्मजगें च बृहस्पतौ कुम्भ योगोभवेत्तत्र प्रयागे ह्यति दूलर्भ:
” मेष राशि गते जीवे मकरे चन्द्र भास्करौ ।
अमावस्या तदा योगः कुम्भख्यस्तीर्थ नायके ।। “
Source: maharashtra government
” सिंह राशि गते सूर्ये सिंह राशौ बृहस्पतौ ।
गोदावर्या भवेत कुम्भों जायते खलु मुक्तिदः ।। “
” मेष राशि गते सूर्ये सिंह राशौ बृहस्पतौ ।
उज्जियन्यां भवेत कुम्भः सदामुक्ति प्रदायकः ।। “
As Jupiter is in zodiac Simha the Kumbh is known as Simhastha Kumbh.
The Kumbh Mela at Prayag is celebrated after approximately 3 years of Kumbh Mela at Haridwar. There is a difference of around 3 years between the Kumbh Festivals at Prayag and Nashik. Kumbh at Nashik and Ujjain are celebrated in the same year or one year apart.
At Ujjain and Nasik- Trimbakeshwar it is known as simhastha.
Every venue celebrates The Kumbh Mela at every 12th year.
Ardh Kumbh (“Half Kumbh”) Mela occurs between the two Purna Kumbha Melas at Prayag and Haridwar.
The Maha Kumbh occurs after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas i.e. every 144 years at Allahabad. The last Maha Kumbh occurred in 2013.
The festival is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world, and considered as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”.
The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues on various dates till the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha.
First written evidence of the Kumbh Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana.