Kumbh Mela 2019: The Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019 which commenced on January 14, 2019 ended today, on March 4, 2019 with the sixth and final “Shahi Snan” (royal bath) held on the occasion of Mahashivratri.

The “Shahi Snan”, a single bathing festival of Mahashivratri is one of the six main bathing festivals of the Kumbh. The other five bathing festivals of the Kumbh concluded successfully with more than 22 crore pilgrims taking a holy dip. The seven-week event began with the holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati. The first bathing was taken by saints and seers of different Akharas.

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What is the Kumbh Mela?

Kumbh Mela

  • The ‘Kumbh Mela’ or ‘Kumbha Mela’ is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith wherein Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river. People believe that bathing in holy rivers would cleanse them of all their sins and bring them closer to salvation.
  • Going by tradition, there are four types of Kumbh Mela viz; Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, and Ujjain Simhastha.
  • The four fairs are held periodically on a rotational basis in one of the four cities namely Allahabad (Prayagraj), Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain. The Kumbh Mela is held every three years and switches between the said four cities.
  • The main festival sites are located at different river banks in the cities, like the Ganges at Haridwar, the confluence of Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayagraj and Godavari at Nashik and Shipra at Ujjain.
  • The word ‘Kumbh’ translates to ‘nectar,’ and derives its name from the original festival being held according to the astrological sign “Kumbha” (Aquarius).
  • The Kumbh Mela is reportedly the largest peaceful gathering in the world and viewed as the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims. The congregation hosts people without a bias for caste, creed or gender, and therefore includes Ascetics, Saints, Sadhus, Sadhvis, Kalpvasis and Pilgrims from all walks of life.
  • As a religious festival, the Kumbh Mela embodies values like tolerance and inclusiveness and the related knowledge and skills are transferred to people through the Guru-Shishyaparampara (teacher-student relationship) by way of teachings by saints and sadhus to their disciples.
  • Notably, the Kumbh Mela was included in the list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO in 2017.

Mythological Origin of the Kumbh Mela

The story around Kumbh Mela goes back to the time when the gods (devas) used to reside on earth. The Hindu legend has it that the gods and the demons fought over a ‘kumbha’ (pot) which would grant them immortality.

Sage Durvasa’s curse had weakened the Gods and the Asuras (demons) were wreaking havoc in the world. Lord Brahma advised them to churn out the nectar of immortality with the help of the asuras. The asuras, realising that the Gods would not share the nectar with them chased them for 12 days, during which some of the nectar fell at the four aforementioned locations.

Presently, the Kumbh Mela is held on dates when the waters of these sacred rivers are said to turn into nectar. The exact dates are calculated going by a combination of the zodiac positions of Jupiter, the Sun and the Moon.

Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019 registers itself in Guinness Book of World Records

  • The Kumbh Mela has won three Guinness World Records this year under the following heads: the largest traffic and crowd management plan, the biggest painting exercise of public sites under Paint My City scheme and the biggest sanitation and waste disposal mechanism.
  • A three-member team from Guinness World Records visited Prayagraj for four days, from February 28 to March 3 respectively. The organisers for Kumbh Mela organisers pressed more than 500 shuttle buses on the highway in one go, which has been rated as the biggest crowd and traffic management plan by the Guinness team.
  • The second world record is for the painting exercise conducted on March 1, 2019, under the Paint My City Scheme.
  • The third world record is for the biggest collective cleaning exercise as more than 10,000 sanitation workers engaged in the cleaning work at Prayagraj Kumbh Mela simultaneously.

Key initiatives by Yogi Adityanath government

  • As per the UP Government, over 12 crore devotees and tourists visited Prayagraj during the Kumbh Mela 2019.
  • The Kumbh 2019 was spread over an area of 3,200 hectares of land. Notably, this is nearly 700 hectares more than the area utilised during the 2013 Maha Kumbh.
  • 21 Snan Ghats were set up for bathing.
  • There were Special arrangements made for female devotees. Also, for the first time, three women police units were pressed into service.
  • Over 120000 toilets were erected for making Clean Kumbh.
  • The whole Kumbh area was divided into 20 sectors and 9 zones for keen vigil by sector and zonal magistrates.
  • 40 police stations, 58 police outposts including 3 women police stations were erected where more than 20 thousand security personnel were deployed.

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