All religions believe that the destiny of mankind is determined by the celestial war that goes on between good and evil. All festivals, in essence, are a celebration of the victory of good. Every three years, a Kumbh Mela is held by rotation in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain. Then there are the Ardha Kumbh Mela at Haridwar and Allahabad, every six years, the Purna Kumbh Mela held only at Allahabad every 12 years. The holiest of all these Kumbh Melas is the Maha Kumbh Mela that happens in Allahabad at Prayag—the confluence of three of the holiest of India’s rivers: the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. And the greatest blessing for the pilgrim—both the sadhu and the ordinary person—is bathing in the holy waters. The prayag, where millions of devotees come to bathe at the Maha Kumbh, is the holiest site of ablution.
At the heart of the greatest gathering on earth, behind the gigantic, all-encompassing energy of belief and power lies the spiritual secret of Hinduism—moksha. Astrologically, whenever the planet Jupiter enters the astrological sign of Taurus when simultaneously the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn, a powerful supercharge of positive charge happens at Prayag. The whole area is energised—the water, the air and the entire atmosphere becomes charged with that force. Taking a bath in the Ganga, which is imbued with that power, promotes spiritual growth, health, emotional strength and puts you on the path to moksha.
Kumbh means ‘vessel’ and ‘mela’ means a festival. At the root of the Kumbh Mela legend is the search for the nectar of immortality that would end the war between the gods and the demons. The gods sought the help of the creator Brahma from the assault of the demons, and he sent them to Lord Vishnu who resides on the ocean, reposing on the great serpent Ananta. Vishnu offered Ananta to be used as the rope to churn the milky ocean to bring up a pot containing the nectar of immortality. Whoever drank it would win the war. However, he had one condition. The gods and the demons both should churn the ocean together. First appeared a vessel of poison that Lord Shiva drank and turned blue. When the pitcher full of nectar appeared, Indra asked his son Jayant to take the pitcher and run away. The demons went after him. The chase went on for 12 years. He rested in four places where he placed the vessel; a few drops of nectar fell and Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain
became spiritually immortal. It is believed that the best day for a bath during the Maha Kumbh is Mauni Amavasya (alas, past this Kumbh, it was on February 10) because it is the day, Lord Brahma created the Universe. Bathing on this day gives the pilgrim unsurpassed spiritual merit.
However, all great spiritual events are imbued with divine symbolism. According to the scriptures, all the great powers—the Trinity, the devas, the seven continents and the Vedas exist in the Kumbh and are manifested together during the Maha Kumbh mela.
Kalashasya mukhe vishnu kanthe rudra samaashritah
Muletvasya sthito brahmaa madhye maatriganaah smritaah
Kukshau tu saagaraah sarve sapta dvipaa vasundharaa
Hrigvedo yajurvedo saamavedohrytharvanah
Angaishca saritaah sarve kalasham tu samaashritaah
As the spiritual essence of the mela is manifested in the immersion of oneself in the holy waters, it is an ablution of the self that is being performed and the nectar—the realisation of divinity—is shared by all. The overflowing pitcher is a repository of knowledge which liberates our souls when we are still alive. Through the Kumbh, the nectar of this knowledge is churned.
The Sun and the Moon represent human intellect and the mind; Jupiter is the spiritual master. So the enjoining of the three planets symbolised the realisation of immortality.