The Maha Kumbh Mela begins today (January 14th 2013) at Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and it is an extremely auspicious and holy event as it is held once every twelve years. Millions of people gather at the Kumbh Mela and in 2001, more then 40 million people gathered on the main bathing day at Allahabad, breaking the world record for the biggest human gathering. Pilgrims gather at the Sangam, a meeting place of three rivers, the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
The days of the Kumbh Mela are determined astronomically and in accordance to the position of the sun, moon and Jupiter. When Jupiter and the sun are in the zodiac sign Leo, the Kumbh Mela is held at Nasik, when the sun is in Aries then the Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Haridwar, when Jupiter is in Taurus and the sun is in Capricorn the Kumbh Mela is held at Prayag and when Jupiter and the sun are in Scorpio, the mela is held in Ujjain.
One of the most important activities undertaken by the pilgrims is a ritual dip the holy water to wash away their sins. Bathing begins at 3am and the sadhus start bathing from sunrise. Different sects have different times for bathing and the process goes on until the evening.
In 1895 after visiting the Kumbh Mela, this is what American writer Mark Twain had to say:
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.”
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