Kumbh Mela occurs four times every twelve years and rotates among four locations: Allahabad ( Prayag ), Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. Each twelve-year cycle includes one Maha Kumbh Mela (Great Kumbh Mela) at Prayag, which is attended by millions of people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
The observance of Kumbh Mela is based upon the following legend: Thousands of years ago, in the Vedic Period, gods and demons made a temporary agreement to work together churning amrit (the nectar of immortality) from the Ksheera Sagar (primordial ocean of milk), and to share the nectar equally. They used a big mountain as a paddle and a giant serpent as the rope. In the process, the ocean yielded the divine gifts including: the holy cow, the flying horse, the lyre and the siren, Lakshmi (goddess of fortune and wealth) and Vishwakarma (the divine architect and constructor). Last came, Dhanvantari, the divine physician, bearing the Kumbh (pot) of amrit. However, when the Kumbh (urn) containing the amrit appeared, the demons ran away with it and were chased by the gods. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for possession of this pot of amrita. It is said that during the battle, drops of amrita fell at four places: Prayag , Haridwar , Ujjain and Nashik. Thus, the Kumbh Mela is observed at these four locations where the nectar fell.
The Kumbh Melas
1) Maha Kumbh Mela - occurring every 144 years - only in Allahabad. According to the ancient mythology, the planets align every 12 years and millions come together for holy bathing rituals in the Kumbh Mela. The most significant alignment of 144 years or a culmination of 12 times took place in January 2001, when millions of people assembled in Allahabad, to take a dip in the holy river Ganga, to purify their inner self and cleanse their karma. This powerful planetary alignment is believed to affect the destiny of the present human race.
2) Purna Kumbh Mela - after every twelve years - last one took place in January 2001 in Allahabad
3) Ardh Kumbh - 6th year after Kumbh Mela
4) Kumbh Mela - every three years, rotating through Prayag, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain
5) Magh Mela - Annual, held every year except years of Kumbh Mela and Ardh Kumbh Mela Held in Magh (Jan-Feb); hence the name. Always in Allahabad
The Maha Kumbh is the culmination of 12 Purna Kumbh Melas, over a span of 144 years. The amrit, or the divine knowledge and strength that lies within the Kumbh is nothing but our own body. We have to judiciously churn our inner self to expose the knowledge. It is believed that taking a holy dip at the Sangam cleanses the soul, washes away all the sins and thus, grants Moksha or salvation to the soul. Being the largest human gathering in the history of the world, the Maha Kumbh Mela, offers a reaffirmation of faith for all humans.According to the astrological predictions, the Kumbha Mela is held when the planet Jupiter enters the sign of Aquarius and the Sun enters into Aries. At Prayag, the Kumbh Mela takes place in the month of Magha (January-February) and the new moon day is considered to be the most auspicious. According to the astrological predictions, the Kumbha Mela is held when the planet Jupiter enters the sign of Aquarius and the Sun enters into Aries. At Prayag, the Kumbh Mela takes place in the month of Magha (January-February) and the new moon day is considered to be the most auspicious.
The Holy Dip
Millions of pilgrims gather from various walks of life, sects and communities at the Kumbh in order to seek salvation. They have a belief that a dip in the sacred waters on the auspicious day would cleanse them of all the sins ensuring salvation. This is the most important aspect of the Kumbh Mela.