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Definition: Kumbh Mela from Collins English Dictionary


1 a Hindu festival held once every twelve years in one of four sacred sites, where bathing for purification from sin is considered especially efficacious

[from Hindi, literally: pitcher festival or Aquarius festival, from Sanskrit kumbha pot, Aquarius + melā assembly]

Summary Article: Kumbh Mela
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Hindu festival that takes place once every 12 years. It commemorates a 12-year celestial battle between gods and demons, over a pitcher (kumbh) containing the sacred nectar of immortality (amrit). The gods were victorious, but during the battle four drops of nectar were spilled. The month-long festival takes place on the sites where the drops fell – the towns of Haridwar, Ujjain, Nasik, and Prayag in northern India. During Kumbh Mela the River Ganges is believed to turn to nectar, bringing great blessings on anyone who bathes in it. In 2001 the festival was attended by an estimated 30 million pilgrims, the largest human gathering in history.

Wandering holy men (sadhus) are the first to bathe; other bathers gather round them to catch ‘a glimpse of god’ (darshan).

Other activities include religious discussions, devotional singing, and mass feedings of pilgrims and the poor. Government control in recent years has curtailed major health and safety problems such as outbreaks of cholera. In 1954 more than 500 people were trampled to death during the Kumbh Mela at Prayag.

The story of the battle is recorded in the Purana, a sacred Hindu text. According to the text, the gods, who were weak, wanted help to increase their power. The demons agreed to aid them in their search for the sacred nectar which both parties pledged to share. However, once the pitcher of nectar had been found, the gods were fearful that the demons would take it all, so the 12-year battle began.

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