Nitin Mehta: Come to Kumbh Mela to see the miracle that is modern India

Share
Related Topics

During the last two months the world's greatest religious gathering has been taking place at Allahabad also known as Prayag in the state of Utter Pradesh in India. Kumbha is a Sanskrit word for a round pot with no handles, Mela means "a gathering", or a fair.

The observance of Kumbh Mela dates back many centuries. It is said that once upon a time the Gods had lost their strength, and to regain it, they thought of churning the Kshera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) for amrit (the nectar of immortality).

This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the demons or Asuras to work together with a promise of sharing the nectar equally thereafter.

But when the Kumbha containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For 12 days and 12 nights (equivalent to 12 human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu flew away with the Kumbha of elixir, and that is when drops of amrita fell at four places on Earth: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik, and that is where the Kumbh Mela is observed every 12 years.

The main highlight for most pilgrims during a Kumbha Mela is the observance of a sacred bath at the Sangam. It is said that a bath in either of the sacred rivers has purifying effects, but where the three rivers meet, the bather's purification is increased one hundred times. This year Makar Sankranti fell on 14 January and the Kumbha Mela began with all the pomp and glory for which it so well known. Millions of people led by the holy men took a dip in the holy river.

Hindus believe all paths to God are valid. Conflict between different denominations within Hinduism is unknown. It is due to this ingrained belief in diversity that democracy thrives in India. Violence in the name of religion will only stop when all the religions acknowledge that all paths to God are valid. It is a miracle that India pulls of such a massive show, with all its logistical nightmares, so brilliantly.

While the numbers who have attended this year's Kumbh Mela are not known yet, in January 2007 around 70 million pilgrims gathered at Prayag for the Ardh Kumbh Mela, by far the world's largest religious festival.

This is an extract from a talk given by the founder of the Indian Vegetarian Society

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz