Kumbha Mela: Origin and Significance


One of India’s ancient legends tells us that every 12 years in January, during an auspicious astrological configuration of the sun, the moon, and Jupiter, the heavens open and shower divine elixir to the earth at the sangam, or confluence, of three rivers—the Ganga, the Yamuna, and the unseen Sarasvati—at Prayaga Raj, near the modern-day city of Allahabad in north-central India.

For thousands of years, the great sages have undertaken intense group ritual practices at this spiritual locus to channel wisdom and elevated awareness into human hearts, and to establish harmony in the physical world. These yajnas, or rituals, restore balance in nature and nourish the forces of creation—something we are in dire need of in modern times.

The sages and the divine grace that flows here are celebrated with the Kumbha Mela, a spectacular gathering of millions of seekers: pilgrims and pandits, villagers and yogis, hucksters and hustlers, the skeptical and the merely curious. The 2001 Maha Kumbha Mela, marking an especially significant planetary pattern that happens every 144 years, attracted over 60 million people. The Kumbha Mela in 2013 was also noteworthy, falling at the end of the Mayan calendar.

Kumbha Mela: Origins

  Story From the Scriptures: The Kumbha Mela  There is a story, told in several of the Puranas, that tells how the Kumbha Mela originated.

  Pilgrimage 2001: Can We Change the Future?  Long, long ago, a demon named Shankhasura sent forth legions of mud-dwelling creatures from the bottom of the sea to capture the Vedas and thus destroy their content. And as the dark waters swallowed the knowledge of the mantras, the higher values of life also sank into the depths.


Kumbha Mela: Commentary

  A Pilgrim’s Progess  From an American ashram to the holy shrines of India, this pilgrim traces a winding path to higher Consciousness—one that eventually leads her back home.

  City of Gods  Journey to Allahabad in January when swamis, sadhus, and pilgrims gather for a timeless ritual celebrated at the confluence of three sacred rivers.

  City of Tents: Pilgrimage to The Kumbha Mela  Seventy million people poured onto the Allahabad floodplain in January 2001. A pilgrim explains why, and what it was like to be among them.

  Maha Kumbha Mela Q&A  Pandit Rajmani Tigunait answers questions about pilgrimage, elevated consciousness, and the pollution of sacred rivers.

  How to Create a Positive Collective Consciousness  Pandit Rajmani Tigunait answers questions about fire ceremonies and preparing for the Kumbha Mela.

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