Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. It is the world’s largest festival.
The term ‘Kumbh’ comes from the root ‘kumbhak’ (the sacred pitcher of elixir of immortality). There is a mention of ‘Kumbh’ and the bathing ritual associated with it in the Rig Veda (verse 10.89.7). It speaks of the benefits of bathing at sangam during this period, elimination of negative influences and rejuvenation of mind and soul.
Kumbh is a symbol of peace and harmony amongst all human beings. It signifies the coming together of people from various cultures from all across the world and participating in the spectacle that is the largest peaceful congregation of humanity. The Mela draws tens of millions of pilgrims over the course of approximately 48 days to bathe at the sacred confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the mystical Sarasvati.
The festival is over 2000 years old! The first written evidence of the mela can be found in the accounts of the Chinese traveller Xuanzang, who visited India during the reign of King Harshavardhana.
The Kumbh Mela has been inscribed on the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.
During the Kumbh Mela, a number of ceremonies take place; the traditional procession of Akharas called ‘Peshwai’ on elephant backs, horses and chariots, the shining swords and rituals of Naga Sadhus during ‘Shahi Snaan’, and many other cultural activities that attract millions of pilgrims to attend the Kumbh Mela.
Amongst the pilgrims are the powerful Naga Babas and Sadhus.