Saturday, April 18, 2009

Maha Kumbh Mela (Simhastha) a Parva of Religious Importance

In month's of April - May 2004 during my stint with the Hindustan Times in Bhopal, I was specially deputed for all the three Shahi Snans (Special Bathing) in Ujjain during the month long Maha Kumbh Mela which takes place once in 12 years on the banks of river Kshipra in front of Mahakaleshwar temple.

Simhastha is the great bathing festival of Ujjain which is celebrated in a cycle of twelve years when Jupiter enters the Leo sign of the zodiac, known as Simha Rashi.
Ceremonial bathing in the holy waters of river Kshipra begin with the full moon day of Chaitra and continue in different intervals throughout the successive month of vaishakha culminating on the full moon day. Tradition calls for ten different factors to be located for the grand festival at Ujjain. According to the Puranas, the legendary churning of the ocean by the gods (Devas) and demons (Danavas) yielded, amongst other things, a jar (Kumbha) full of nectar (Amrita). Gods did not like to share it with demons. At the instance of Lord Indra, the master of Hindu Gods, his son Jayanta tried to run away with the jar and was naturally followed by some of the demons.
During the struggle for its possession lasting over twelve days in the heaven, a few drops of the nectar dropped at the four places, corresponding with Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik on the earth. The Drops of nectar were well received by the holy rivers at these places. It is to commemorate the sprinkling of this nectar into the sacred waters of Kshipra that the Simhastha festival is celebrated at Ujjain.
Festivals at the other three places are known by the more popular name Kumbha. The cycle of twelve Years is common to all the four places. As the struggle for the possession of the nectar-jar (Amrita-Kumbha) lasted for twelve days in the heaven, the corresponding period turned out to be twelve years on the earth, for the human beings.
Different planetary positions, like the crossing of Jupiter into Leo sign and certain other conjunctions for the fair at Ujjain, are noted for the Kumbha-fair at these other places also.
Besides being a city of remarkable cultural traditions, Ujjain is cited among the seven cities of sacred merit in India. Mahakaleshwar temple and the holy Kshipra river have always attracted countless people to visit Ujjain through out the year for ages. The crowd of pilgrims and saints of various sects running into millions during the Simhastha presents a picture of mini India at Ujjain and one can well visualize here, as to what invisible forces bind this great Nation together.

These are some of the images which displays the various sects of Hindu sadhus and also showcases them as they wish to be portrayed.

The Priests of Mhakaleshwara temple performing the daily ritual of "Kshipra River Aarti" on the banks of the river at Ram Ghat in Ujjain. Hundreds take part in this aarti every day which takes place during sun rise and again at sun set.

The partly crowded Ram Ghat in Ujjain on the eve of the Shahi Snan. More then 3 corer people from all over the country take their holy dip in the river Kshipra, once in 12 years over a period of one month.

A Sadhu from Ayodhya walks into Ram Ghat with the burning lamp which he had carried with him through out his one month walk to Ujjain (left) even as thousands of sadhus come into Ujjain to take part in the month long Simhastha which begins with the first with the holy dip at river Kshipra once in twelve years.

Shaivite: In Hinduism, worship of the god Shiva. It is an important part of the Hindu tradition, particularly in southern India. Shaivite ascetics often smear their bodies with ashes, keep their hair uncut, and carry a trident. Shaivism stresses asceticism and meditation.
One of three main forms of modern Hinduism, centred on the worship of Shiva. The earliest of the cults devoted to Shiva date from the 4th century BC. Texts written by devotees of Shiva in the 3rd century AD are the basis of Tantra in Hinduism and other Indian religions. Today Shaivism includes diverse movements, both religious and secular, all of which take Shiva as the supreme and all-powerful deity and teacher and view gaining the nature of Shiva as the ultimate goal of existence. This is believed to be brought about by the performance of complex rituals. Shiva as the Supreme Being. Shaivas believe that Shiva is All and in all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, revealer and concealer of all that is. Shaivism is widespread throughout India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, mostly. Notable areas of the practice of Shaivism also include parts of Southeast Asia like Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
*** Courtesy Wikipedia ***

Vaishnavaite: Vaishnavism is a tradition of Hinduism, distinguished from other schools by its worship of Vishnu or his associated avatars, principally as Rama and Krishna, as the original and supreme God.This worship in different perspectives or historical traditions addresses monotheistic God under the names of Narayana, Krishna, Vāsudeva or more often "Vishnu", and their associated avatars.It is principally monotheistic in its philosophy, but not exclusive, although the Vaishnavas teach that Shiva, the main God of many Hindus is only a servant of their god Vishnu. The followers of Vaishnavism are referred to as Vaishnava(s) or Vaishnavites. A large percentage of Hindus are Vaishnavas,with the vast majority living in India. Awareness, recognition, and growth of the belief has significantly increased outside of India in recent years. The Gaudiya Vaishnava branch of the tradition has significantly increased the awareness of Vaishnavism internationally, since the mid-1900s, largely through the activities and geographical expansion of the Hare Krishna movement, primarily through ISKCON and more recently, through several other Vaishnava organizations conducting preaching activities in the West.
*** Courtesy Wikipedia ***

Sadhus enroute to the Simhasth in Ujjain take a break at the Gufa Manadir temple in Bhopal on. During their break they watched 3rd ODI between India Vs Pakistan on April, 2009 (left) as another baba cools himself under a fan even as his colleague takes a afternoon nap at an akhara in Ujjain (right).

VHP President Ashok Singal Seen along with Jagat Guru’s of various Mutt's at the Hindu Conference in Ujjain during the Simhastha . The Conference passed a resolution of a " Hindu agenda for the state of Bharath" (left ), as Jagad Guru Swami Vasudevanad Saraswati addressing the VHP workers and members at the Hindu Conference in Ujjain, (right). The Conference passed a resolution of a " Hindu agenda for the state of Bharath" and demanded that the central government to , restore the Ram Janam Bhoomi to the Hindus, release all temples from Government Control, Ban Cow Slaughter, Ganga river Purification and have the common civil code for national integration amidst various other demands.

A naga sadhu from Uttra pradesh poses with a toy gun at his tent in the Dutta Akhara (left), as another Sadhu calls his relatives from a mobile phone depot from his akhara near the Ram Ghat in Ujjain during the Simhastha Kumbh Mela.

A Small boy seen selling the new trishuls at an akhara to the thousands of sadhus and sants who have thronged the Ram Ghat (left), even as sadhus from various parts of the country arrive near the Ram Ghat in Ujjain for the First Shahi Snan (Emperor's Bath) during the month long Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela.

Ram Giri Baba and the Mukhi of the Juna Akhara chats with one of his fellow sadhus (left) as another baba cools himself under a fan as one more takes a afternoon nap at an akhara in Ujjain during the Maha Kumbh Mela.

Two foregin sadhus Tom and Erric roll a stick to be had even as their pet dog Jhonny looks on near the Ram Ghat, in the Juna Akhara area (left) as other foreign tourist who have come from various parts of the world sit on the steps to the Ram Ghat to watch the Sadhus taking their holy dip at the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2004 at Ujjain.

Sadhus from various Akhara's sit and pray inside a circle with burning cow dung which is dried, after their early morning bath everyday. This prayer in silence goes on for 2 hours or sometimes even to 6 hours per day (top left) and at the end of their prayers they blow their conchs to signal that their prayers have ended (top right and below left). A Naga Sadhu shows the power of his penis by taking the wait of another naga Sadhu standing atop of the rod rolled around his penis at a akhara in Ujjain during the Simhastha Kumbh Mela (below right).

THE HOLY DIP - SHAHI SNAN (EMPEROR'S BATH)

Thousands of Naga Sadhus led by Ram Giri Maharaj of the Juna Akhara rush into the Ram ghat and face the Mahakaleshwar temple before the taking their holy dip into the river Kshipra in Ujjain to kick start the month long Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in 2004.

Hundreds of Naga Sadhus run into the river Kshipra during the first shahi snan (left) and they sprinkle and splash water on each other. These drop of water is very scared to them and usually they are clashes between the two sects of the Hinduism during the Shahi snans.

Sadhus perform the Sun god pooja on the banks of the river Kshipra after their holy dip during the 2004 Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain.

Sadhus and sants offer a pooja to the half submerged Shivalinga on the banks of river Kshipra (left) as police and volunteers help an elderly Sadhu back to he steps after his holy dip in the river at Ujjain in he 2004 Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela.

Sadhu and a Sadhivi in different postures on the banks of Ram Ghat pray to the Sun god after their holy dip at the Maha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain in 2004.

A Naga sadhu relaxes in is tent facing the Ram Ghat aftre his holy dip (left) as another young sadhu walks woith his pet after taking their holy dip in te river Kshipra in Ujjain at the Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in 2004.




Myself with a volunteer in the knee deep bridge connecting the two sids of the river Kshipra at Ujjain during the month long Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in 2004.





*** Scroll down for more on Simhastha ***

7 comments:

Thamma said...

Dear Sir,

Like your pics. Can I please use a few of them for some research for a book I am planning, will give you full credit of course, if it gets published, quoting your blogsite .

Please email to-
ratnalahiri@yahoo.com

Discovery Journeys India said...

Awesome. I feel like being there for the occasion. Great write-up and nostalgic pictures. Thanks for sharing


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Indian Travel said...

Kumbh Mela is attended by millions of people on every single day. The major event of this festival is a ritual bath at the banks of the rivers on specified sacred dates.

Thanks,


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