Kumbh Mela 2021: Everything you need to know

The ‘Shahi Snan’ or royal bath of the grand Kumbh Mela 2021 is about to start. Kumbh Mela happens after every 12 years. Many pilgrims from different parts of the country come to take a dip in the holy water during this time. Read on to find out more about the grandeur of this celebration and what makes it so special this year.

What is the legend of Kumbh Mela?

The word Kumbh means a pitcher or pot of nectar while Mela means fair. The anecdotes of Kumbh Mela can be found in the ‘Puranas’, a collection of ancient tales and legends. The origins of this celebration are said to be related to the ‘Ratna Sagar Manthan’. Many devotees and scholars, however, have different versions of the tale. 

According to mythology, gods, when stripped of their power, had made an agreement with asuras or demons to divide the ‘amrit’ or nectar of immortality from the ocean and divide it equally. The pot of nectar was then spilled over at four places – Prayag (Allahabad), Uttar Pradesh; Haridwar, Uttarakhand; Nashik, Maharashtra; and Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. The spilling of nectar is said to have been done by ‘Garuda’, an avatar of Vishnu while taking it to heaven. 

It is said that the rivers near the four places turned into ‘amrit’. Pilgrims thus visit these places and take a dip in the holy water of purity and immortality to wash off their sins. The Kumbh Mela is held alternatively in these four places. 

What is special about Kumbh Mela 2021?

Kumbh Mela 2021 is being held in Haridwar. Kumbh Mela is a sacred pilgrimage which occurs once after every 12 years. The exact time and place are chosen depending on astrological predictions of planetary movements and other religious considerations. According to the official site, the astrological calculations for this Kumbh is very auspicious and the cycle is being completed in only 11 years. In fact, this phenomenon is occurring for the first time in 80 years making Kumbh Mela 2021 even more special.

What are the important dates?

The holy dip in waters begins on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti. Every bathing date or ‘Snan’ is then decided according to astrological calculations. The first ‘shahi snan’ or royal bath is to happen on Maha Shivratri, 11th March. ‘Shahi Snan’ is the main attraction of the Kumbh Mela. In this, the Naga Baba (the one who refrains to wear any clothes) walks from their ‘Akharas’ and Mahant, Mandaleshwar, Mahamandaleshwar and Acharya Mahamandaleshwar follow the Naga Babas. Nobody else is supposed to take a dip before this.

There are four ‘shahi snans’ this year. Here are some important dates:

  • February 27, 2021: Maghi Poornima
  • March 11, 2021: Maha Shivratri (first shahi snan — royal bath)
  • April 12, 2021: Somwati Amavasya (second shahi snan)
  • April 14, 2021: Baisakhi (third shahi snan)
  • April 27, 2021: Chaitra Purnima (fourth shahi snan)
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Must-do things in Kumbh Mela 2021 

Apart from taking a holy dip and meeting the ‘sadhus’, here is how you can make your trip to the Kumbh Mela memorable:

  • Attend the Ganga Aarti – Ganga Aarti happens every day at Har ki Pauri ghat. Witnessing this event during Kumbh Mela adds to its magnificence. Visit the ghat the after sunset between 6 and 7 pm to attend the Ganga Aarti.
  • Take home souvenirs – Shop from the local market, buy books and calendars highlighting the various aspects of Kumbh Mela. Some popular souvenirs include Rudraksha Mala, Tulsi Mala or Kamal Mala, Ashtadhatu Rings, copper and brass items including rings and bangles.
  • Visit an Akhara – Akharas are groups of Sadhus or spiritual organizations of different beliefs that attend the Mela. Generally, people visit the Akharas of the Guru they follow. You can visit any one of your faith to attain some wisdom nuggets from the Sadhus! 
  • Eat at a Bhandara – Organised by akharas or sponsors, Bhandaras serves the most delicious meals. The best part is that you can pay whatever you want! People who can’t afford food can eat without having to pay anything while the ones who can, offer to pay more to keep the Bhandara going. 
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How to reach?

The Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport to Haridwar. Haridwar is also well-connected to different parts of the country by train. In light of the event, many special trains have been announced from various cities. 

Owing to its location, Haridwar has excellent road connectivity as well. You can reach the city by road from any northern state. The highways are well-maintained and make for a scenic road trip. Simply book a Savaari from Delhi to Haridwar or any other city with an experienced driver for a pleasant and hassle-free journey

Credits: The New York Times Youtube Channel
[Also read: Offbeat getaways in India: Rishikesh]

What are Covid-19 restrictions and precautions for Kumbh Mela 2021?

  • Pilgrims are expected to register online for attending the Kumbh Mela. The registration form is available on the official site
  • If you are attending the ‘Shahi snan’ make sure to register online in advance. You will then get an e-pass for entry. 
  • Attendees need to mandatorily produce COVID negative RT-PCR report, issued not later than 72 hrs before attending the Kumbh Mela.
  • There are about 107 bathing ghats divided into colour-coded zones based on their vulnerability. Pilgrims are only allowed to spend a few minutes in water. 
  • The GIS mapping of the entire area is done to ensure the crowd at any particular site doesn’t exceed the permissible limit.
  • Devotees also need to have the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones. 
  • Authorities have advised people over 65 yrs of age, the ailing, pregnant women, children below 10 years of age not to attend for safety reasons.

To ensure smooth execution of the event, the Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) has launched an awareness campaign in Haridwar. The campaign aims to educate more than 11,000 local residents, devotees and others about the pandemic.  

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Reading between lines - the ones that rhyme, on a journey with no stop sign.

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