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5 Dec, 2012

India Set to Host 130m People for Kumbh Mela 2013, World’s Largest Spiritual Gathering

ALLAHABAD, India – A World Parliament of Religions and an International Conference on Ayurveda & Yoga are to be among the highlights of the Kumbh Mela, a spectacular commemoration of Hindu and Indian spirituality, culture and heritage to be held between January to mid-February 2013. Held every 12 years, this unique event is expected to attract 130 million people, making it the largest gathering of its kind on the planet.

Described by the website as the “Season of Nectar”, the Kumbh Mela is hailed as “one of the most ancient, yet still living, traditions of India’s glorious past” and the “spiritual experience of a lifetime.” Devotees come from all around the world to take advantage of the auspicious alignment of the stars and planets, have a holy bath in the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers, meditate and learn from the wisdom of saints, sages, rishis and sadhus.

According to the website, the Kumbha Mela has gained added significance in the context of the state of the world. It says, “Scientific and technological advances have put a man on the moon and a camera on Mars, but they have failed to bring humanity together on Earth. Each year man becomes more and more alienated and he is held more and more as a prisoner unto himself. Kumbha allows people to come out of this mechanistic and materialistic life and develop a bond of love with others without any discrimination of caste, creed and color. Thus, an important aspect of Kumbha Mela is the incredible unity amidst diversity that occurs at these sacred occasions.”

It adds, “In order to unite the entire nation of India, a festival must appeal to two distinct strata of society: the intellectual, educated class and the average, less educated and more superstitious class. Religious faith is the basis of unity in spirituality-inclined people. Spiritual people seek those things which will help them progress further toward the Ultimate goal. Our sages understood this, and thus the mythological stories appeal to the hearts of the masses, and the philosophical message and scientific basis appeal to the educated mind.

“Rishis and sages have always shouldered the responsibility of the social, moral and spiritual upliftment of the country; they dealt with the problems of invasions, corruption, lethargy and selfishness. The nectar – which manifests in the form of satsang, knowledge, love and grace – is distributed to all, without any discrimination. The great assemblages of sanyasins, yogis, sages and saints reassure and uplift the nation; hence great masses of people rush to the sacred places at the time of Kumbha. Mahatma Gandhiji, in his autobiography, wrote, “…and then Kumbha arrived. It was a great moment for me. I have never tried to seek holiness or divinity as a pilgrim, but seventeen lakhs [1,700,000] of people cannot be hypocrites.”

The six-week duration of the Kumbh Mela will be dotted by dozens of projects, conferences and ceremonies, in addition to the various religious and spiritual rituals. Three important ones are:

(+) Between February 17-18, the IV International Conference on “Ayurveda & Yoga – Where Science Meets Consciousness”, will be organised by Punarnava Ayurveda Trust and Ganga Action Parivar. It aims to increase global awareness about Ayurveda and wellness, as well as its linkage with traditional Indian knowledge systems.

(+) Between January 27-29, the World Parliament of Religions will be held. The website describes the “Sarva Dharma Sansad” as a coalition of great spiritual and religious leaders from Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and more, to promote the cause of Environmental Protection for World Peace.

Says the website: “It is no longer enough for the world’s religious leaders to instruct their followers in tolerance, acceptance and non-violence. In the 21st century, far more people will lose their lives due to lack of clean drinking water, lack of nourishing food and a polluted environment than by violence through guns or bombs. Therefore, the role of religious leaders must expand to include exhorting their followers to live mindfully, consciously and in accordance with a sustainable future.”

The Sarva Dharma Sansad (SDS) coalition “is dedicated to bringing all together in the name of unity, non-violence, truth, compassion, love and justice. SDS is working towards helping create a society free from casteism, injustice against women, violence, drugs and alcohol, blind faith and dogmatism, corruption, oppression and exploitation.”

(+) One major activity will be designed to make this the first-ever eco-friendly “Green” Kumbh. Allahabad, once a green city “where residents and visitors could pluck fruits from the lush trees that lined its streets” today has become a city of “treeless vistas that look unappealing to the eye, while also adding to the problem of soil erosion into what should be a pristine confluence of the world’s holiest rivers.”

To help the fabled city regain “the grandeur befitting its name”, the Ganga Action Parivar along with local NGOs, schools, institutions and volunteers have been planting, and planning the future planting, of trees and plants throughout the Kumbh grounds and its environs. “As these grow, beautiful canopies of greenery will shelter visitors from far and near, fruits will tempt the eye, roots will prevent the erosion of soil, and leaves will offer some 90% of their water back to the environment, adding moisture to the air.”

The 2013 Kumbh Mela is also designed to help India itself learn from its own mistakes. According to the website, “In today’s age of environmental awareness and ecological conservation, everyone knows that mountains, rivers and trees are great natural resources which must be preserved, conserved and used wisely. We have seen the devastating consequences of deforestation, over-industrialization and the pollution of our water sources right here in India. Yet, Indian culture has preached reverence for nature since its inception so many thousands of years ago.

“Rivers, especially Ganga, are truly our “Mothers.” Farming is a primary occupation in India; thus, irrigation is of utmost importance. Ganga and other rivers irrigate not only our farms but also our hearts, minds and souls. It is our sacred rivers that pilgrims flock for the Kumbha Mela. We must remember that these rivers are sacred and treat them as such. The message of the Kumbha Mela in present times must include a renewed care for the land we call “Mother.”

“The nectar that Kumbha Mela must disseminate today is a renewed respect for our Earth and her animals, a re-dedication to the laws of our scriptures, and a re-kindled fire of spiritual yearning in our souls. This year, as we celebrate Kumbha Mela just as our ancestors did, we should remember the way in which they lived and the values to which they held. If Kumbha Mela can re-unite us with those sacred roots and with the messages of the scriptures, then it will veritably be giving us the “nectar of immortality.” Then, and only then, will we attain true peace and liberation.”

Excerpt from the website:

Astrological & Scientific Background

Indian festivals are not only filled with gaiety and joy, but they invariably have solid scientific and historical foundations, which lead to the utmost physical rejuvenation, psychological healing and spiritual upliftment.

It is according to scientific methods that the place and date of each Kumbha Mela is determined. Whenever the planet Brihaspati (Jupiter) enters the astrological sign Vrishabha at the same time that Surya (the Sun) and Chandra (the Moon) are in Makara, the result is an incredible positive charge in the atmosphere of Prayag (Allahabad). According to Western astrology, this happens when Jupiter enters Taurus, and the Sun and New Moon enter Capricorn. This positive charge affects the water, the air and the entire atmosphere, such that simply being at that special place, and taking a bath in the Ganga, is very conducive to spiritual growth, and physical and emotional well-being.

As Jupiter takes eleven years, ten months and fourteen days to complete its revolution around the Sun, it means that approximately every twelve years Jupiter moves into its same position. Purna (Full) Kumbha Mela is celebrated when Jupiter reaches this same position, and so Purna Kumbha Mela is celebrated every twelve years. The Kumbha Mela is not simply a theoretical ritual, followed blindly. Rather, it is a scientific, historical and thoughtful tradition of Hindu culture.