We all know the Kumbh to be the largest human gathering on the planet depicting the glory of Sanatan Dharma to its fullest. But do you know when it started? What is the significance of it? What is signified in the Sanatan Dharma? What makes it so prominent that despite being the largest gathering, the whole fest is considered being the most peaceful one? To find the answers to all these questions read the article.
The word ‘Kumbh’ is originally from the Sanskrit origin meaning ‘pot’. The word ‘Mela’ means the gathering in the Sanskrit language. Normally the Kumbh Mela is held every 3 years and Ardh Kumbh Mela is held every 6 years at Prayagraj (former Allahabad) and Haridwar. The Purna Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years at 4 places namely Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. The dates are fixed as per the planetary movements.
The Kumbh Mela at its glory attracts over 150 million people across the world. The Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayagraj once in 144 years i.e., after 12 Purna Kumbh Melas. Kumbh is also known as Magh Mela or Makar Mela. The largest human gathering at these 4 places advocates the luminosity of lights, music enchanting mantras, and the saffron flow in the cities. The city lit up with twinkling lights to showcase the essence of Kumbh to celebrate the cosmic consciousness of Hinduism and the glory of its rituals. An eternal life free of sins is the promise that comes attached with the magnificent event called KUMBH MELA.
Let us go back to its History
In Vedic times, during the waging war of Amrut Manthan or Samudra Manthan between Demi-gods and demons for the position of Amrut for life – a few drops of it had fallen on 4 places- Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik.
The belief that the holy rivers of Ganga, Yamuna, and mythical Saraswati are blessed with mystical strengths. It is believed that these holy drops gave mystical powers to these 4 places. A dip in Sangam will emit all your sins and help attain ‘moksha’ or salvation from the cycle of life and death. This Melas are held on dates when the water of these rivers is said to be turned into nectar (Amrit). The auspicious dates are calculated according to the zodiac position of Jupiter, the Sun, and the Moon.
The most powerful draws of the Melas are the Nagas (naked sadhus). The rituals performed during Mela are worth witnessing. Hindu dharma advocates peaceful life taking into cognizance Hindu relation with nature. The cycle of birth and death is the only medium for the soul to temporarily reside in the human body to elevate the conscious level to reach God. The day of Amavasya attracted and attracts the largest no. on a single day. The day has its own importance for ages.
Who are Nagas?
In Sanskrit, Naga also means mountains, people residing in and around mountains are called Nagas. The history of Naga Sadhus is very ancient. During past invasions, there were a series of attacks on the Sanatan Dharma and Hindu structures. At that point in time, a massive exercise was carried over by Naga sadhus to organize their strength and form Akhadas so that they all fought under one saffron flag to protect the Hindu culture and Vedic tradition of India. They raised weapon-wielding brigades to repel the foreign invasions and named them Akhadas. This movement was initiated by Shri Adi Shankaracharya who was a great scholar in the 8th century AD. He formed several Akhadas (groups) who had fearless yogis to fight bravely with the attackers.
There are 14 Akhadas. With around half a million sannyasi members, Juna Akhada is by far the most important order of Sadhus in India today, in that the vast majority are Naga sadhus. Only a few fortunate can become the Naga sadhus- the strongest commitment makes a Naga. They are equipped with various weapons and weaponry skills to successfully protect temples from invaders. They call themselves ‘Sena of Sanatan Dharma’.
The process to go through to become a Naga Sadhu is even more difficult than that of an army. Here are the rules elaborated:
- Strong Celibacy and Penance – a person who’s interested in becoming Naga sadhu should have complete control over his lust, sexual feelings, and erotic libido. Mentally a person should renounce material wealth and desire for worldly things. The permission to become Naga is known as Diksha but there are many other conditions that need to be fulfilled before this permission is given.
- Serving to God, people, and country – a person who attains control over his senses is of no use if he does not love God, people, or country. Serving and following orders of his guru helps the person in removing self-ego.
“Whoever takes a dip in this water, their lust, rage, greed, attachment, and ego get dissolved in this holy Ganga. One becomes enlightened with outstanding qualities like sato gun, rajo gun, tamo gun, after taking a dip in Kumbh Mela.” As said by a Saint of Akhada.
- Rites – it is essential to perform last rites considering himself dead for his family and society. It is like a new birth of a person in a new world of Nagas. The individual performs the last rites himself relinquishing his connection with the family members and friends. After this Guru gives him a new name and identity.
- Renouncing clothes – they cannot wear clothes and can only wrap a single saffron cloth, that too not to cover the entire body. They can only rub ashes on their body, rudraksha mala around their neck.
- Having one meal a day – they can just eat once a day. He cannot make choices and needs to eat what is offered to him. They can only sleep on the mother earth, at the most can cover the ground with a piece of cloth.
- Guru Mantra – after attaining Diksha, Guru gives a mantra to Naga. His entire life revolves around the Mantra given to him.
- Secluded life – they cannot live in cities and thickly populated areas and take shelter in places that are far away from ordinary people.
Naga Sadhus undergo deep pain and tiresome processes to test their self-control.
There are also women Naga Sadhvis. They enroll in Akhadas and undergo the same tiresome process to become Naga Sadhvis. For the first time in Kumbh Mela’s members of the transgender community called Kinnar Akhada took part in Royal bath. They say, “This participation is about mainstream accepting us”.
How important are Sadhus in Kumbh?
It is said that Siddh Naga Sadhus of the Himalayas use their body to raise the level of consciousness to the highest order. They do not sleep. They keep their consciousness in a state which is way beyond the sleep and dream state of common people. They use the vital energy of the Universe to meditate for the rest of their life. Hatha yogis can absorb the immense pain and take it to the level that their bodies’ immune systems become torture and disease-proof. Adorning bodies is a part of the ritual of Naga Sadhus. They wear different things on the body to feel close to Lord Shiva.
The bathing of saints and their disciples of the Akhadas on the prescribed days at the beginning of Kumbh Mela is called Rajyogisnan or Shahi Snan. The Shahi Snan begins at 4 am. Saints and their disciples take out a weapon-wielding procession which is flanked by a huge crowd. Various musical instruments played with slogans; “Har Har Mahadev” and “Har Har Gange”.
Thousands of naked sadhus with holy ash smeared on their bodies wear garlands, hold weapons and flags for the absolute devotion to that one moment in the water. The first preference is given to Akhadas for the holy bath in Kumbh. Shahi Snan of weapon-wielding is considered the biggest ritual in Kumbh Mela.
Science behind Rituals performed at Kumbh
The ash on the bodies of Naga sadhus keeps them safe and unaffected from environmental pollution and acts as a second skin for the Nagas. They take good care in decorating their foreheads with Tilaks for it signifies Identity and Strength.
They believe Rudraksha came from the tears of Lord Shiva and wearing it is a blessing of Shiva. After siddhi (pooja) original rudraksha mala protects the Nagas as it glorifies and enhances the aura in and around them.
Many Naga sadhus prefer wearing jewels that correspond to Navgrahas (9 planets) to get in sync with nine planets.
The science of Vedic astrology which revolves around the Navgrahas is also thousands of years old.
Hair is a natural conductor of our body’s electromagnetic energy. Yogi with long hair is more energetic, tireless, powerful, and fearless. Coiling hair causes induction. The science of coiling wires in electronics comes from the ancient Hindu science of interlocking hair in coil form to induce energy in the body. Coiling hair enhances electromagnetic energy i.e., also one reason that yogis and Nagas never get affected by heat, cold, or change in weather.
Naga sadhus take good care of their hair. They clean it up with black soil, soak it in the morning under sunlight and rejuvenate their body energy extracting power from the sun using hair as a receptor.
They grow a long beard as it makes face muscles stronger, they act as a receptor of positive energy when Surya Namaskar is performed in the river.
This festival is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world and considers the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims. It has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
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