The Simhasth Kumbh Mela is an exclusive celebration in India. Simhasth Kumbh Mela (fair) is one of the four Kumbh Melas celebrated as largest mystical gathering in India in every 12 years in Ujjain. It is celebrated by taking holy dip on the banks of river Kshipra in Ujjain city of Madhya Pradesh State in India.
Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh Melas: the Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Allahabad Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Kumbh Mela and the Ujjain Simhasth Kumbh Mela. These four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain. The main festival site is located on the banks of the holy river: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar; the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the mythical Sarasvati at Allahabad; the Godavari at Nashik; and the Kshipra at Ujjain. Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins. The fair attracts millions of pilgrims.
When is it observed?
The Simhasth Kumbh Mela at Ujjain pays special reverence to the temple of Mahakaaleshwar Jyotirlinga, which is the abode of Lord Shiva’s Swayambhu lingam. The ritual of bathing in the holy river Kshipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues on various dates till the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha i.e. begins from Chaitra Shukla Poornima and continues till Vaishakh Shukla Poornima. Simhasth Kumbh Mela shall begin on Friday, 22nd April 2016 and will continue till Saturday, 21st May 2016. It is believed that taking a dip in river Kshipra on this occasion purifies the soul and overcomes all the sins.
Main dates of holy bath:
22nd April 2016 (Friday) Full Moon Night (Chaitra Shukla Poornima) – Shahi Snaan
3rd May 2016 (Tuesday) Vratparv Vauthini Ekadashi- Kumbh Snaan
6th May 2016 (Friday) Vaishakha Krishna Amavasya – Pramukh Snaan
9th May 2016 (Monday) Shukla Akshay Tritya – Shahi Snaan
11th May 2016 (Wednesday) Shukla Panchami – Kumbh Snaan
15th May 2016 (Sunday) Vrishabh Sankranti- Kumbh Snaan
17th May 2016 (Tuesday) Ekadashi and Pradosh Snaan
19th May 2016 (Thursday) Pradosh- Kumbh Snaan
20th May 2016 (Friday) Narasimha Jayanti- Kumbh Snaan
21st May 2016 (Saturday) Vaishakh Shukla
Poornima Mukhya Shahi Snaan (Main Royal Bath)
The pious Panchkroshi yatra will be held from 1st to 6th May 2016.
The most popular legend regarding the origin of Kumbh Mela is the Samudra Manthan or ‘Churning of the Ocean’. Gods and demons struggled fiercely in the churning in search of the divine nectar of immortality-‘Amrit Kumbh’. During this epic battle for its possession a few drops of the precious nectar dropped from the pot (kumbh) at four places on the earth –Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Ujjain. The drops of nectar were well received by the holy rivers at these places.
As the struggle for the possession of the nectar pot (Amrit Kumbh) lasted for twelve days in the heaven, the corresponding period turned out to be twelve years on the earth for the human beings. Hence Kumbh Mela is held at each of the three places namely Haridwar, Allahabad, Nashik and Simhasth Kumbh Mela at Ujjain are held once every 12 years.
The river Kshipra became very important during this festival. Millions of devotees come to take a bath in the holy Rivers to wash off their sins. The devotees believe this to be an opportunity to get ‘moksha‘ (salvation) and put an end to the never ending cycle of birth-death-rebirth.
Ujjain, one of the most sacred places in India, is located on the banks of the sacred river Kshipra in the western region of Madhya Pradesh. Kumbh in Ujjain is held when a rare configuration of planets takes place which happens once in 12 years. When the Sun is in the zodiac sign Aries and Jupiter in the zodiac Leo, it is held in Ujjain. Considering its relevance to the zodiac ‘Leo’ meaning ‘Simha’ in Sanskrit, the Kumbh is also referred to as ‘Simhasth Kumbh’. Simhasth is the great bathing festival of Ujjain. There are more ten unique and uncommon Yogs which exist and facilitate the organizing of Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv.
The position of the Sun, Moon and Jupiter in different zodiac signs determines the location of the Kumbh Mela to be held in that particular city.
Sages (Sadhus) of various sects from across the country assemble in Ujjain to take ritual dip in the holy waters of the Kshipra.
During Simhasth Kumbh Mela, one can notice the power of India’s unity with all the diversities on the ghats of Kshipra. People from different places and various walks of life come to Ujjain to immerse themselves in holy river Kshipra-the enhancer of life, with only one ambition of attaining salvation (Moksha).
Traditionally, Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv is celebrated by various Akharas, where “Peshwai” (Procession) begins in its full glory. The heads of Akharas join the procession on silver throne (Simhasan) on elephants. It looks magnificent with the presence of armed Sadhus on horses and camels followed by Sadhus, hermits and devotees. Peshwai completes at the Ram Ghat area on the banks of river Kshipra.
During the Simhasth Parva every pilgrim after taking the bath visits the Mahakaaleshwar temple of Shiva. Bathing in the holy river on the auspicious occasion of Kumbh Mela is the most important activity for millions of people in India. A large tented city is erected and pilgrims stay at tents at various ashrams. Others will just camp on the ground or turn up for the actual bathing day. Some of these bathing days are designated as “Royal Bath” (Shahi Snaan) and it is on these days that the Naga sadhus make parade and bathe. On other days there will still be people bathing and other events and random processions.
The Nagas (sanyasis of Shiavite cult) and their Shahi snan in Kshipra when they are hundreds in number, is an important occasion which is the major attraction of Simhasth. The Nagas are one of the significant branches of Sanathan dharma’s cultural legacy. Their akharas (wrestling arenas) are rare and invaluable proof of their zeal that has kept the practice alive over the centuries, till date.
The main ritual performed at that Kumbh Mela is the ritual bath. Hindus believe that submerging themselves in the sacred waters on the most auspicious day of the new moon will absolve them and their ancestors’ sin, thus ending the cycle of rebirth.