Posted by: janpierce | April 1, 2010

The Kumbh Mela, largest religious gathering in the world

The Kumbh Mela, a Hindu celebration done in three year cycles is currently being celebrated in Haridwar, Uttar Pradesh in India. It’s the largest religious gathering in the world. The Ardh mela is celebrated every six years while the Purna (complete) mela is done every twelve years in Prayag on the Ganges, near the city of Allahabad.  In 2001 when the Purna Mela was held at Prayag more than 60 million people attended the event. It is said in Vedic literature that there was a battle between the gods and the demons. During the battle drops of amrit (the nectar of immortality) fell to the ground at four places in India. The festival is held at these four sites. Holy men of all kinds attend the mela. The most spectacular and bizarre are the Nagas, or “naked ones.” All the gurus, sadhus, and holy men attend the mela, and rich or poor they receive alms and give blessings to the people  during the festival. At Prayag for the Purna festival, tent cities are erected with all the fanfare of a carnival.  Special river police and state intelligence agency officers are hired during the celebration days to provide closed circuit television protection for the gigantic crowds in attendance. There are days considered more auspicious than others for bathing in the waters of the Ganges. It is considered an important lifetime event to make a pilgrimage to the Kumbh Mela.

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