Largest peaceful gathering in Kumbh Melas

Kumbh Mela (


) is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. It is considered to be thelargest peaceful gathering in the world where around 100 million (10 crore ) people were expected to visit during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2013 inAllahabad.[3][4] It is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation:HaridwarAllahabad (Prayaga), Nashikand Ujjain. Thus the Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardha (“Half”) Kumbh Melais held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges(Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamunaand the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godawari at Nashik, and the Shipraat Ujjain. The name Kumbh Mela comes from Hindi, and in the original Sanskritand other Indian languages it is more often known as Kumbha Mela. Kumbhameans a pitcher and Mela means fair in Sanskrit.

Quick facts: Official name, Observed by …
Kumbh Mela
Nashik during 1989 Kumbh Mela.jpg

Nashik Pilgrims gather for the Shahi Snan (royal bath) in Ramkund inDakshin Ganga River, 1991.
Official name Kumbh Mela, Kumbha Mela, Maha Kumbh Mela, Kumbha Melam
Observed by Hindus especiallyShaivites
Type Religious
Observances Shahi Snanam (bathing for purification from sin)
Begins Makar Sankranti, 14 January
Ends Maha Shivaratri
Date main pilgrimage: every three years (2010/2013/2016/..); other: see chart
2014 date
2015 date 29 Aug – 18 Sep[1]
2016 date 22 April – 21 May 2016

The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places: it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the kumbha carried by gods after the sea was churned. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins.[5]The festival is billed as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”.[6] There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary. Approximately 80 million people were estimated to attend on 14 February 2013.

Mauni Amavasya traditionally attracted the largest crowds at the mela, held here every 12 years. The current Kumbh Mela was held on 14 January 2013 at Allahabad. The day marked the second and the biggest Shahi Snanam (royal bath) of this event, with 13 akharastaking to the Sangam. 10 Feb 2013 was the biggest bathing day at the Maha Kumbh Mela and probably the largest human gathering on a single day. Over 30 million devotees and ascetics took holy dip on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya.[7]

Haridwar Pilgrims gather at the third Shahi Snanam in Har ki Pauri to take the royal bath in Ganga River, 2010.

A major innovation effort, Kumbathon by MIT Media Lab in 2013, has created a new initiative called KF27 (Kumbha Foundation 2027) to bring technology and innovation to Kumbha Mela. The multi-year platform Kumbha.Org now spans areas in health, transportation, payments, food, civic issues, housing and so on.


The first written evidence of the Kumbh Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese monk Xuanzang (玄奘, alternately Hsuan Tsang) who visited India in 629–645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana.[8][9] However, similar observances date back many centuries in towns where the river festivals were first getting organised. According to medieval Hindu theology, the festival origin is found in one of the most popular medieval puranas, the Bhagavata Purana. The Samudra manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata,and the Ramayana.[10]

The traditional account says that theDevas had lost their strength by the curse of Durvasa Muni, and to regain it, they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. They directed all the demigods to Lord Vishnu and after praying to Lord Vishnu, he instructed them to churn the ocean of milk Ksheera Sagara(primordial ocean of milk) to receiveamrita (the nectar of immortality). They had to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the Asuras, to work together with a promise of sharing the wealth equally thereafter.[11]However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years), the Devas and Asuras fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu (incarnated as Mohini-Mürti) flew away with the Kumbha of elixir, spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik.[12]


Kumbh Mela takes place every twelve years at one of four places: Allahabadalso known as PrayagHaridwarUjjainand Nashik.[13][14][15]

  • Kumbh Mela: Held at all four places every three years.
  • Ardha Kumbh Mela: Held at Haridwar and Prayag every 6 years.
  • Purna Kumbh Mela: Held only at Prayag every 12 years.[16][17]
  • Maha Kumbh Mela: Held only at Prayag every 144 years.[18][19]


The Triveni Sangam, or the intersection of Yamuna River and Ganges River and the mythical Sarasvati River, where devotees perform rituals.

Triveni Sangam, the meeting place, of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Sarasvati.[20]

Kumbh Mela 2013 Sangam, Allahabad


On the bank of river Ganga.


Evidence of the kumbha mela can be found in the accounts of chinese traveller ,Hliuen Tsang or Xuanzang(602-664 A.D)who visited India in 629-645 CE, dring the reign of ‘king Harshavardhana’.[21] Kumbh Mela is celebrated every 12 years in Nashik, on the bank of river Godavari. It is Known as Sinhastha, and Purna (Complete) Kumbha. Last time it was held in 2003. Next Kumbh mela is to be held in 2015. It is celebrated every 12 years because it is believed that the Gods had to saveAmrut from Danavas-Devils. They were on earth for 12 days to hide Amrut from the devils. According to Indian Mytholology God’s 12 days are equivalent to 12 years on earth.[22]

Akhada is place where sadhus of a particular group gather and perform rituals.[23] There are 14 Akhadas, of which 11 belong to the Shaiva sect (of the 11 Shaiva Akhadasa, one—Bhudada Akhada—is defunct, while 10 are active) and 3 to the Vaishnava sect. The Shaiva Akhadas take a holy dip at Kushavart in Trimbakeshwar, about 30 km from Nashik.[24] The Vaishnav Akhadas perform rituals at Ramkund in Godavari and stay at Tapovan.[25] The Vaishnava Akhadas have Khalsas (religious groups headed by Mahantas attached with Akhadas) attached with them. Both Shaiva and Vaishnava Sadhus used to take the holy dip in Trimbakeshwar, until 1838, when a clash between them led to bloodshed and the Peshwa ruler requested Shaiva sadhus to perform rituals at Trimbakeshwar and Vaishnavsto move downstream to Ramakunda in Nashik. Millions pilgrims visit Nashik forKumbh Mela and take a dip in the holy waters of Kushavarta as well as Ramkund in Godavari River. The Sadhusand Sanyasees who visit the Kumbh Melain large numbers reside in the Tapovanwhich is situated in Panchavati at the left bank of river Godavari.[26]


On the bank of river Shipra. Aslo known as Simhastha


More information: Year, Prayag …

Upcoming Kumbh Mela festivals:

  • The next Kumbh Mela will be held atNashik on the bank of river Godavari in 2015 (15 August to 13 September). The Kumbh at Ujjain is also called “Simhastha” (as Guru will be in Singh Rashi).[27]
  • Ujjain Purna Kumbh Mela 2016


Planetary positions during 2013 Kumbh Mela at Allahabad (Prayag)

Kumbh Mela is celebrated at different locations depending on the position of the planet of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter) and the sun. When Jupiter and the sun are in the zodiac sign Leo (Simha Rashi) it is held in Trimbakeshwar, Nashik; when the Jupiter is in Aquarius (Kumbh Rashi) and Sun in Aries it is celebrated at Haridwar; when Jupiter is in Taurus (Vrishabha Rashi ) and the sun is in Capricorn (Makar Rashi) Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag; and Jupiter in Leo and the Sun in Aries the Mela is celebrated at Ujjain.[28][29] Each site’s celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon, and Jupiter.[30]


Kumbh Mela at Prayag, 2001

A saint in Maha Kumbh 2013

According to The Imperial Gazetteer of India, an outbreak of cholera occurred at the 1892 Mela at Haridwar leading to the rapid improvement of arrangements by the authorities and to the formation of Haridwar Improvement Society. In 1903 about 400,000 people are recorded as attending the fair.[29] During the 1954 Kumbh Mela stampede at Prayag, around 500 people were killed, and scores were injured. Ten million people gathered at Haridwar for the Kumbh on 14 April 1998.[8]

In 2001, more than 40 million gathered on the busiest of its 55 days.[31]

According to the Mela Administration’s estimates, around 70 million people participated in the 45-day Ardha Kumbh Mela at Prayag in 2007.[32]

The last “Kumbh Mela” held in 2001 in Prayag was estimated by the authorities to have attracted between 30 and 70 million people.[33][34][35]

The current Maha Kumbh Mela began on 14 January 2013 at Prayag. According to expectations more than 100 million people attended the 2013 Kumbh mela.[36][37]

The ritual

Naga sadhu procession 1998 Kumbh Mela

The major event of the festival is ritual bathing at the banks of the river in whichever town Kumbh Mela being held:Ganga in HaridwarGodavari inNasikKshipra in Ujjain and Sangam(confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati) in Allahabad (Prayag). Nasik has registered maximum visitors to 75 million. 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 standardised. Kumbh Mela is the most sacred of all the pilgrimages.[citation needed] Thousands of holy men and women attend, and the auspiciousness of the festival is in part attributable to this. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron sheets with Vibhuti ashes dabbed on their skin as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some, called naga sanyasis, may not wear any clothes even in severe winter.[citation needed] The right to be naga, or naked, is considered a sign of separation from the material world.[5]

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.[38]

The order of entering the water is fixed, with the Juna, the Niranjani and Mahanirvani akharas preceding.[39]


Darshan, or respectful visual exchange, is an important part of the Kumbh Mela. People make the pilgrimage to the Kumbh Mela specifically to see and experience both the religious and secular aspects of the event. Two major groups that participate in the Kumbh Mela include the Sadhus (Hindu holy men) and pilgrims. Through their continual yogic practices the Sadhus articulate the transitory aspect of life. Sadhus travel to the Kumbh Mela to make themselves available to much of the Hindu public. This allows members of the Hindu public to interact with the Sadhus and to take “darshan.” They are able to “seek instruction or advice in their spiritual lives.” Darshan focuses on the visual exchange, where there is interaction with a religious deity and the worshiper is able to visually “‘drink’ divine power.” The Kumbh Mela is arranged in camps that give Hindu worshipers access to the Sadhus. The darshan is important to the experience of the Kumbh Mela and because of this worshipers must be careful so as to not displease religious deities. Seeing of the Sandus is carefully managed and worshipers often leave tokens at their feet.[5]

Most significant days during the Kumbh Mela

Bhishma Ekadasi Snan

On this day, Bhishma Pithamaha, the oldest, wisest, most powerful and most righteous person belonging to the Kuru dynasty (approx. over 5000 years ago), narrated the greatness of Lord Krishna through Sri Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishtira, the eldest brother of Pandavas. Karna is technically eldest however, by normal definition of Pandavas, Yudhishtira is the eldest.

Recent Kumbh Melas


According to Paramahansa Yoganandain his work the Autobiography of a Yogi, it was during the Kumbh Mela in January 1894 at Prayag that his Guru Sri Yukteswar met Mahavatar Babaji for the first time.[40]


When the Kumbh Mela was held inNashik, India, from 27 July to 7 September 2003, 39 pilgrims (28 women and 11 men) were trampled to death and 57 were injured. Devotees had gathered on the banks of the Godavari river for themaha snaanam 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 sadhuscould take the first ceremonial bath. Reportedly, a sadhu threw some silver coins into the crowd and the subsequent scramble led to the stampede.[41][42]


Sinhastha Mela was held in Ujjain in the year of 2004 on the banks of River Shipra.


More than 70 million people visited Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayag.[43]


Haridwar hosted the Purna Kumbh mela from Makar Sankranti (14 January 2010) to Shakh Purnima Snan (28 April 2010). Millions of Hindu pilgrims attended themela. On 14 April 2010, alone approximately 10 million people bathed in the Ganges river.[44] According to officials by mid April about 40 million people had bathed since 14 January 2010.[45] Hundreds of foreigners joined Indian pilgrims in the festival which is thought to be the largest religious gathering in the world.[45][46] To accommodate the large number of pilgrims Indian Railways ran special trains.[47] At least 5 people died in a stampede after clashes between holy men and devotees.[48]

Indian Space Research Organisationtook satellite pictures of the crowds with the hope of improving the conduct of the festival in the future.[49]


The Maha Kumbh Mela was held atAllahabad (Prayag) (14 January to 10 March 2013). An estimated 30 million people visited the Maha Kumbh Mela on 10 February 2013 and an estimated 100 million were expected to visit the place during the festival spread over 55 days.[3] On 10 February 2013, a stampede at the railway station killed 36 and injured at least 39.[50]

Here are the details of most auspicious days (bathing dates) in year 2013 during Maha Kumbh Festival (mela):

  • 14 January 2013 (Monday) – Makar Sankranti
  • 27 January 2013 (Sunday) – Paush Purnima
  • 6 February 2013 (Wednesday) – Ekadashi Snan
  • 10 February 2013 (Sunday) – Mauni Amavasya Snan (Main Bathing Day)
  • 15 February 2013 (Friday) – Vasant Panchami Snan
  • 17 February 2013 (Sunday) – Rath Saptami Snan
  • 21 February 2013 (Thursday) – Bhisma Ekadashi Snan
  • 25 February 2013 (Monday) – Maghi Purnima Snan
  • 10 March 2013 (Sunday) – Mahashivratri


The next Kumbha Mela will be held at Nashik (Maharashtra).[51] The details of most auspicious days (bathing dates) in year 2015 during Nashik Kumbh Mela are:

  • 14 July 2015 (Tuesday): Flag hoisting of the main ceremony at Ram Kunda
  • 14 August 2015 (Friday): Flag hoisting of the Akhara at Sadhugram
  • 26 August 2015 (Wednesday): Shravan Shudha- First Snan
  • 29 August 2015 (Saturday): Shravan Purnima – First Shahi Snan at Ram Kunda
  • 13 September 2015 (Sunday): Bhadrapad Amavasya – Second Shahi Snan/ Main bathing day
  • 18 September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Panchmi (Rushipanchami) – Third Shahi Snan
  • 25 September 2015 (Friday): Bhadrapad Shukla Dwadashi – Vaman Dwadashi Snan

The complete details of Simhastha Kumbh Mela Nashik – Trimbakeshwar 2015 can be found on website of Maharashtra Government)

Kumbh Mela in media


Amrita Kumbher Sandhane, a 1982Bengali feature film directed by Dilip Roy, documents the Kumbh Mela. Kumbh Mela has been theme for many a documentaries, including Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth (2001) directed by Graham Day,[52] On 24 September, The Hindu reported the great faith in god displayed in Kumbh Mela at Nasik which had more than 70 million visitors in 2003 Kumbh Mela. (2004), by Maurizio Benazzo and Nick Day,[53][54]Kumbh Mela: Songs of the River (2004), by Nadeem Uddin,[55] and Invocation, Kumbh Mela (2008).[56]


Short Cut to Nirvana: Kumbh Mela is a 2004 documentary film was set in the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad. This film is directed by Nick Day and produced by “Maurizio Benazzo”.[57]


On 18 April 2010, a popular American morning show The CBS Sunday Morning gave an extensive coverage on Haridwar’s Kumbh Mela “The Largest Pilgrimage on Earth”. Calling it “one of the most extraordinary displays of faith on Earth, a spectacular journey drawing tens of millions of people”.

On 28 April 2010, BBC reported an audio and a video report on Kumbh Mela, titled “Kumbh Mela ‘greatest show on earth’.”

On 30 September 2010, the Kumbh Mela featured in the second episode of the Sky One TV series “An Idiot Abroad” withKarl Pilkington visiting the festival.


In 2011 the documentary on Kumbh Mela, ‘Kumbh Mela: Walking with the Nagas’, was produced.


Amrit: Nectar of Immortality (2012) is a documentary which was shot at the Kumbh Mela 2010 in Haridwar, this film is directed by Jonas Scheu and Philipp Eyer.[58]


Allahabad: Kumbh Mela 2013, considered to be the biggest congregation of Pilgrims and devotees across the world, yet it turned out also to be a big congregation of Technology.

State government took this opportunity to showcase its achievements.

On 10 Feb 2013, Media reported that 36 people died in a stampede at the Allahabad railway station, the union and state governments have denied that organizational lapses may have contributed to the tragedy; they say the massive rush of passengers, returning from a dip in the waters of the Ganga and Yamuna, at the Maha Kumbh, the world’s largest religious festival.

In March, 2013, the documentary “Inside the Mahakumbh” by the National Geographic Channel produced this documentary which also featured the California-born Baba Rampuri, the first foreigner to become a Sadhu.

In June 2013 Ukrainian Religious Studies Project Ahamot produced a documentary “Kumbh Mela 2013: living with Mahatiagi” based on their own ethnographic experience with this denomination at Sangam.[59]


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