What the FAQ: What is the Kumbh Mela? Did it always attract such huge crowds?

Kumbh Mela has been on the news for a few days after lakhs attended the festival flouting all COVID SOPs
What the FAQ
What the FAQ

The 2021 Kumbh Mela at Haridwar saw millions attend it, despite a massive rise in the number of COVID cases in the country. Even though there was a lot of criticism, pictures show lakhs of maskless people gathered at the bank of Ganga to celebrate the festival. We look at its historical importance.

What is the Kumbh Mela exactly?

Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival, celebrated on the river banks to celebrate the revolution of the planet Jupiter. The planet takes approximately 12 earth years to complete a circle of revolution.

Is the Kumbh Mela held once a year?

There are three types of Kumbh Melas, the Purna Kumbh Mela that occurs every 12 years at a site, the Ardh Kumbh Mela that happens every 6 years and the Maha Kumbh, which happens after every 144 years. The Kumbh melas are held in four sites majorly — Allahabad, Haridwar, Trimbak-Nashik and Ujjain. Taking a dip in the river is considered as an important part of the ritual.

What is the History and mythology behind holding the Kumbh Mela>

It is believed that Hindus started celebrating the Kumbh from the eighth century AD, after Adi Shankara began his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates.

Is this the first time that a Kumbh Mela saw such a large crowd?

No. Every Kumbh Mela attracts lakhs of pilgrims from across the world. There are even accounts of crowds attending it from Islamic conquerer Timur's time. In 1820, a stampede at the Haridwar Kumbh Mela killed around 500 people. The only time where the attendance had reduced was in the 1940s when there were speculations of Japan planning to bomb the site.

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