Kumbh Mela is the general term used but there are four Kumbh Mela conducted periodically. The Haridwar Kumbh Mela has held at the banks of river Ganga. The Allahabad Kumbh Mela is held at the banks of confluence (Sangam ) of the river Ganga, the river, and the invisible river Saraswati. The Nashik Kumbh Mela is held at the banks of Godavari river and the Ujjain simhastha at the banks of Shipra.
According to UNESCO’s representative list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, it is a mass spindle pilgrimage in which the people come and bath in the holy river with the faith to wash away all their sins and have a new start.
The Kumbh Mela is held after 12 years on each place. The Kumbh Mela at Nashik is always 3 years after it is held in Haridwar .the fair at Ujjain is organized in the same year as Nashik or at one year difference. The dates of the fair are set by studying the Vikram samvat calendar and the principles of jyotiisha. It comprises the study of zodiac positions of Jupiter as well as of sun and moon.
While the planet is in Leo (Simha in Hindu astrology ) the fair of Nashik and Ujjain is held and known as simhastha. The fair at Haridwar and Allahabad are held after every six years and hence are called Ardha(half). The Kumbh Mela occurring after 144 years is known as Maha Kumbh Mela ( great ).
In Hindu mythology, it is said that the drops of Amrit ( the drink of immortality) fell at four places by Lord Vishnu while transporting it in a Kumbha (pot). The sites of the Kumbh Mela are these four places where the Amrit dropped.
The Kumbha Mela is one of the largest occurring fairs which has faith-driven people gathering together at a spot. It is very peaceful and is well planned by the government. It is known as the ” world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims “.
The origin of festival according to Hindu mythology can be found in the ancient legends of Samudra manthan. It tells the tale of the battle between the devas and the asuras for Amrita. As Amrita is the drink of immortality. Samudra Manthan as in the name it was churning of the ocean produced Amrit which was placed in a Kumbha ( pot). According to the dash avatar, Lord Vishnu took the avatar of Shatavari and flew taking the Kumbha to prevent asuras from drinking it. While taking the Kumbha some drops of Amrit fell at four places where the present Kumbha Melas are celebrated.
The Kumbha Mela which is now held at Nashik was originally held at trimbak. After the clash between vaishnavites and sivites over the order of bathing the vaishnavite’s of bathing was shifted by Maratha Peshwa to ranked in Nashik city. Peshwari procession is the major event of any Kumbha Mela. It indicates the arrival of the members of an ashram or sect of sadhus at Kumbha Mela. The festival includes the ritual bathing at the banks of the respective river, religious discussions, religious assemblies etc. It also includes the mass feeding of holy men and women and the Poors. It is the most sacred of all the Hindu pilgrimage.