Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Maha Kumbha Mela - The cultural extravaganza of India

image source : blog.poonamparihar.com

image source : http://www.thehindubusinessline.com
kumbh1image source : tcindia.com

image source : indiapulse.sulekha.com
The images of Indian cultural extravaganza, The Maha Kumbha Mela are flashing across the media - both print   and visual, all over the world.  There are images of sadhus, tents, temples, lamps and of course foreign visitors. But I am afraid instead of highlighting the essence and the cultural value of the mega event, the focus is more on getting the snaps of the nude sadhus or sadhus smearing ash on their bodies or wearing odd costumes, lengthy hairs or nails. Besides the ash smeared ascetics, wide-eyed stars and

tourists and millions of pilgrims thronging the Ganges for a holy dip, there are a lot more interesting facts and intricacies involved in this mystique event.
image source : indiatoday.intoday.in
The Puranas - holy scripts of India - link the origin of Kumbh Mela to the origin of the universe. Scriptures narrate that once Durvasa Muni, the short-tempered sage,  came face to face with Indra on his elephant. A pleased Durvasa offers his garland to Indra. Indra nonchalantly places the  garland on the trunks of his elephant, which throws it down to the ground and stamps on it. Durvasa, loses his temper and curses Indra to lose all his opulence and the demiGods, afflicted on the one side from demons and on the other side by the curse of Durvasa lose all their power in the three worlds.
So the demi Gods led by Indra and Vayu bereft of all their power and strength  approach Lord Brahma to seek his blessings and his help to regain their supremacy. Lord Brahma takes pity on them and along with Lord Shiva leads them to the Supreme power, The Lotus feet Lord Vishnu. Vishnu being omnipotent is aware of everything and offers a solace. He advises the demiGods to make peace with demons and churn the ocean of milk where the rope will be serpent Vasuki and the churning rod would be Mandara Mountain. The nectar - Amrutha - will come out of churning which will make the demiGods strong and immortal.
image source : allgodscollections.com
image source : etirtha.com

When the Amrutha Manthana - churning of the ocean ends with the arrival of the nectar, a tussle erupts between Demi Gods and Demons and Lord Vishnu taking the shape of Mohini wins over the asuras and give the nectar to Gods. But in the ensuing melee between Gods and Demigods  four drops of nectar supposedly fall in four places Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik and this has made these places with their rivers the most sacred places on earth.
image source : thehindu.com
It is at these four places that Kumbha Mela is celebrated. The ardh Kumbha mela is celebrated  at Haridwar and Allahabad every six years and Purna Kumbha  Mela takes place  once every twelve years at four places Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. The mela alternates between Nashik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. Allahabad, the place where Kumbha Mela is being held this year is a mass Hindu pilgrimage in which Hindus gather at the Sangam, meeting place of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Sarasvati, at Prayag where bathing for purification from sin is considered especially auspicious.
image source : chennaionline.com
There is a mention about the Maha Kumbh in the diary of Chinese traveler Huang Tsang back in 602 - 664 A.D. during his visit to India during the reign of Harshavardhana.It is the serene and pious atmosphere at the Himalayas and Ganges which was responsible for the positive impact on the hearts and minds of those visiting these places. Unfortunately the human greed has been polluting the land, water and air over the years and it is taking ugly proportions with the passage of time. The rural people who live one month every year in January in this place are called Kalpa Basis  Seers claim that a person who undergoes the Kalpawasa vrata is honoured with the title of Kalpawasi. They spend their entire time in Kumbh Mela living an austere and minimalistic life. Kalpwas is religious and spiritual sermon and scientists claim that spending a month at mela has a very positive impact on their hearts and minds.
This year in a study conducted by the social psychologists of British and Indian universities it is found that the Kalpa Basis return home healthier despite the fact that they have just one meal per day.Though they supposedly live in messy, unhealthy and unhygienic conditions, their health improves because of the environment and medicinal plants and air. Imagine what would have been the results if the Ganges were to be in her original purity.
image source : hotfrog.in
Under the aegis of many social and environmental organisations [river pollution control] [Ganga river basin management plan],steps are constantly being taken to prevent contamination of water and control water pollution. River Ganga, popularly known as Ganges is held in highest reverence in India and its sanctity can never be lost in globalization of Indian culture. Indian culture and work culture in India cannot be representative of India unless the purity and sanctity of the Ganges is restored. As much as the Taj Mahal is the representative of India calling the world tourists, the festival hosting India can retain its cultural value not only by publicizing the Kumbh Mela but making the Kumbh mela tours as divine Kumbh yatra.
The sheer scale and complex dynamics of the mela provide a big canvas and a platform in the study of socio-economic management. At an average estimate more than 100 million people are supposed to attend the mela this year. The Harvard University is engaged in studying the logistics that go into the organisation of the festival of this big magnitude. It is here that our country's history and heritage take a center stage. Imagine providing the facilities of health, sanitation, water, food and transportation to this enormous gathering where on the wide open land a city pops up and facilities are provided to millions of people.