The World’s Biggest Spiritual Gathering
Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest spiritual event. The word, mela, roughly translated from the original Sanskrit, has a dual-meaning. It can mean either a gathering or a carnival fair. This dual-translation is an accurate reflection of the vibe of the Kumbh Mela itself. In December 2017, UNESCO included the Kumbh Mela on its Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity List.
Most people, albeit fascinated and curious, tend to have some difficulty understanding the Kumbh Mela. We’ve put together a short Q & A styled post to help answer some of the more frequently asked questions!
What is the significance of the Kumbh Mela?
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Every three years, Hindus from all over the world meet at one of four specific locations to bathe in a sacred river as part of this highly important religious pilgrimage. The locations have been determined and kept exactly the same for thousands of years, since the inception of the mela, because each of these locations act as host to a river of immense spiritual significance to the Hindus. The Ganges river is found at Haridwar, the Shipra at Ujjain, the Godawari at Nasik and the confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at Allahabad.
How is it different?
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Visitors to the Kumbh Mela are often stunned by how unique and different the atmosphere is. The rarity of this experience is probably due, in most part, to the fact that the event is a preservation of centuries’ old tradition. Somewhere around mid 600 AD, Chinese explorer Hieun Tsang, kept a documentation of this mass gathering. This is said to be the earliest written record of this event. However, many historians assert it is very likely that the Kumbh Mela had already been in effect hundreds of years before this date.
The flow of this festival is kept as authentic and traditional as possible. This is why many visitors, especially those unaccustomed to Hinduism or any variant of Indian culture, mostly report feeling like they’ve wandered into another time and space.
I’m not really a spiritual person, should I still check it out?
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Even if you wouldn’t consider yourself a religious or spiritual person, we recommend that you try to attend this mela. It is a rare opportunity to see so many various socio-religious sects intermingling while hobbled together in same tentage arena. If possible, try to apply to stay overnight in a tent as well. As a tourist, you would be granted a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be organically exposed to authentic, unscripted life in India. The whole festival thrives on communal experiences and so speaking with local Indians and participating in their activities would be a highly likely occurrence for you.
What else is there to do?
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Like any other fair, there’s tons to do! In many parts of the mela grounds, you will find long lines for langar (free buffets), thriving with delicious, mouth-watering Indian street food such as Bhelpuris and Golgappas.
There are multiple attractions available such as ferris-wheels and other booth-styled games reminiscent of carnivals. On top of this, there are markets and bazaars where you could get your hands on many Indian hand-made crafts.
A one-in-a-million experience that you have to see for yourself!