Maha Kumbha Mela at Prayag Raj

Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

Origin of the kumbha

It is almost impossible to set a date for the origin of the Kumbha. If you start tracing it backwards you will discover yourself in a time span that is now legendary and therefore dismissed as mythology. In fact, what we carelessly term mythological is a brilliant synthesis of pure history and metaphysical truths in the garb of extravagant tales.

The truth is that the tradition of Kumbha is most ancient. The roots of this tradition are deeply connected to man's inborn craving for happiness, prosperity, fame, good health, well-being, enlightenment and immortality. The Vedas, Puranas and other ancient texts are full of research and knowledge on this intense desire of man. Strangely enough, the results of their research have not been given to us in the form of facts and figures with which we in the modern era are so familiar and comfortable. Instead they have cloaked their valuable discoveries on each and every aspect of man's life and afterlife, in the form of vivid and sometimes bizarre tales. Saints and sadhus tell us that each tale is a code language through which universal truths can be revealed to the discerning and enlightened.

Samudra manthan - churning of the ocean

The Kumbha too can be traced back to one such tale, which has become well known as the 'samudra manthan'. This churning of the ocean is described as an alchemical process through which at first poison emerged, which was consumed by Lord Shiva, and then arose the divine attributes of, health, wealth, beauty, power, auspiciousness and last but not least immortality. It is this divine nectar of immortality or amrit that arose as a consequence of the samudra manthan which is responsible for the origin of the Kumbha.

As soon as the amrit arose Vishwakarma (the divine architect), possessor of the knowledge of all arts and crafts, created a magnificent kumbha to contain it. This amrit kumbha attracted the minds of all who were present. A great struggle then ensued between the suras (divine beings) and asuras (demonic beings) for this amrit kumbha, as they all wanted to taste it and become immortal. During the battle that took place between them a few drops of amrit spilled at four different places at four different times. The Kumbha is thus celebrated at those very same spots during that exact time.

Jupiter, the Moon, the Sun and Saturn assisted in protecting the amrit kumbha from the asuras. The Moon helped in preventing the amrit from falling out, the Sun from protecting the kumbha splitting or breaking, Jupiter helped in preventing the asuras from kidnapping the amrit kumbha, and Saturn assisted out of fear of Indra (the chief of the divine beings).

It is said in the scriptures that the sun, which is ruled by agni tattwa (fire element), and moon, which is ruled by soma tattwa (water element), control the activities of the entire universe. So they are called Agnishomeeyam. Both microcosm and macrocosm are sustained by agni and soma tattwa. Our entire metabolism, catabolism and anabolism is sustained by the sun and moon, which are represented in the physical body as two very important nadis (flows of energy), pingala and ida. These two nadis are most important not just for the physical and mental activity of man but for his spiritual enlightenment as well. This clearly explains why in the story of samudra manthan the sun and moon were depicted as the foremost protectors of the kumbha.

It is when the exact zodiac positions that the sun, moon and Jupiter held when they were protecting the amrit kumbha occur in the same conjunctions, that the spots where the amrit fell once again get charged and the Kumbha Mela is celebrated. These four places are at Prayag, the confluence of Ganga, Jamuna, Saraswati; Ujjain, where the Shipra flows; Nasik, where the Godavari originates, and Hardwar, where the Ganga touches the plains for the first time.

Period of the kumbha

The Kumbha is held at Prayag (Allahabad) when Jupiter enters Aries and the sun and moon enter Capricorn. In Hardwar at the foothills of the Himalayas, it is held when Jupiter is in Aquarius and the sun in Aries. When Jupiter is in Leo and the sun in Aries then it is held at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh. In Nasik, at Maharashtra, it is held when both Jupiter and the sun are in Leo.

The Maha Kumbha is held every twelve years as the struggle between the divine beings and demons for the amrit kumbha lasted for twelve days, which equals twelve human years. The exact period of the Kumbha is determined by nakshatra (constellation) tithi (day as per the lunar calendar) and the movement of planets to form special alliances. As per the calculations of astrologers and astronomers the exact conjunctions that the planets held during the samudra manthan, when the amrit drops fell, occur once every twelve years. These moments, when the planets take the very same positions, are considered most auspicious for taking a bath in the waters, as during that period a nexus of cosmic energies converge at that spot and charges the waters, bringing a dramatic change in the destiny of man.

Benevolence of nature

In science magazines we read that people in remote areas of South America are developing skin cancer due to the penetration of the sun's rays through a hole in the ozone layer, which has been caused by man's race to achieve supremacy through industrial and technological advancement. If the sun's rays can be so powerful as to cause virulent diseases, is it not possible that the same rays can cure man too? Nature can be malevolent if man disturbs the laws that govern it. But it has been the experience of many that it can be benevolent too. There are not one but several known cases where incurable diseases have disappeared after a bath at the Kumbha. Would it be wise to dismiss these claims just because these facts have not been investigated and verified by modern science?

Kumbha in the Vedas

The word kumbha means pot or pitcher and this word has been used quite extensively in the Vedas, Tantras, and other systems that constitute vedic philosophy. To explain the supreme knowledge of the Immortal Self, rishis and munis of the vedic era have profusely used the symbol of kumbha.

Just as an empty pitcher both contains and is surrounded by space, or a pitcher immersed in the ocean contains water both inside and outside, in the same way each and every speck of creation contains and is surrounded by the Supreme Atman. Can you ever say that the water contained in the kumbha is different from the water of the ocean in which it is immersed? If the kumbha is broken the water inside it once again unites with the ocean. In other words it is the shell or outer covering, the physical attributes of man, which separate him from the experience of the universal atman. Once he dissolves his awareness of that shell he merges with the supreme atman, and he experiences unity within and without.

The Vedas are the basis of the Kumbha. Proof of this is found in the following mantras.

Rigveda 10:89:7

The literal translation of this mantra is, "Just as a woodcutter tears apart the wood in a jungle, in the same way Indra, Surya and lightning cut through entire citadels of clouds and fill up the rivers with water. Like a new kumbha they pierce through the clouds and along with their associate agencies, the maruts, they bring forth water and rain.

This mantra has also been translated as, "Just as the Ganga surges forward by destroying and rearranging the banks of her river, in the same way man surges ahead by bathing in the kumbha and destroying all the obstacles and hindrances which halt his progress, and like a new mountain he emerges from within the clouds of his samskaras which surround him. He can then taste the nectar of immortality."

Shukla Yajurveda 19:87

This mantra translates as, "The good and righteous karma of participating in the kumbha bestows physical happiness on man in this loka (plane of existence) and happiness for many lifetimes hereafter."

Atharva Veda 19:53:3

This mantra translates as, "The undying paramatma manifests in the world as day, night, month, year, season etc., and as kaal or time he is like the purna kumbha. This can be experienced through contemplation and reflection. Learned men describe the experience of that paramatma as different from the experience of pain and pleasure that we have in our daily lives. He is untouchable like the sky, the ultimate protector and benefactor of our lives.

Atharva Veda 4:34:7

This mantra translates as, "Full of the divine milk and other heavenly items I have established four kumbhas in the four directions, at four different places. Let this flow of heavenly milk, mixed with other divine elements which promise the fruit of good deeds, be available to you and fill you with its sweetness and guide you to the path of prosperity, beauty, grace and fulfilment."

Kumbha in the Tantras

The Tantras explain this a bit further by comparing the Kumbha to the human skull, which is described as an inverted kumbha or kalash. In chapter 87 of Kalika Purana the kumbha or kalash is clearly enumerated in relation to the churning of the ocean. It says, "When the devas and asuras were churning the ocean for the divine nectar then Vishwakarma created the kalash out of the divine attributes of all the devas in order to hold the amrit. There are nine kalash. Their names are Gohya, Up-gohya, Marut, Mayukh, Manoha, Krishi-Bhadra, Tanu-Shodhak, Indriyaghna and Vijaya."

These nine kalash have nine more names which eternally bestow peace on mankind. They are Kshitindra, Jal-sambhav, Pawan, Agni, Yajmaan, Kosh-sambhav, Som, Aditya and Vijaya. The kalash has five faces. Panchanan Mahadev himself resides in them. This is why nyasa (rite of consecration) should be performed of the five-faced kalash. Kshitindra in the east, Jal-sambhav in the west, Pawan in the south-east, Agni in the south-west.

Vishnu resides in the mouth of the kalash, and Shankara in the tongue. At the root is Brahma and in the centre is Devi. The attendant devas influence the centre from the ten directions of space, and in its belly lie the seven oceans and seven continents. The planets, their conjunctions, Ganga and all rivers, all mountains and the four Vedas are all firmly established in the kalash. One should contemplate on these within the kalash.

All auspicious herbs, flowers and other ingredients should be brought and offered to the kalash. The devatas of the kalash, Brahma, Shambhu and Vishnu, should be ceremonially worshipped in the kalash. Especially Shambhu, for it is he who, by consuming the poison, made the amrit available to us. Then the attendants should be worshipped in their customary ways. Then the nav-grahas (nine planets) should be worshipped, followed by the matrikas. All divine beings residing in the kalash should be worshipped one by one especially the nine devatas.

The importance of the kumbha or kalash can be understood quite easily by observing that no tantric or vedic pooja is performed without first establishing the kalash in the area of worship. There is a special ceremony called 'Kalash sthapana' which is done at the commencement of any worship.

Yogic reference to kumbha

In yoga too we find reference to the Kumbha. In the practice of pranayama there is a term called kumbha kavastha. This is that state when the breath is neither drawn in nor thrown out but held within. This is the main part of pranayama through which prana shakti (the life force) is transformed as well as channelled and the dissipating tendencies of the mind destroyed. A sort of manthan or churning you may say.

The practices of yoga such as khechari mudra and vipareet karani mudra tell us of an important secretion called amrit that is continuously flowing downwards from a very important centre at the root of the palate, where the moon resides, to the navel centre, where the sun resides. Through the practice of khechari mudra the tongue is elongated and rolled backwards to block the cavity in the throat through which this nectar falls. This is a process through which rejuvenation of the body is enhanced thereby inducing longevity and immortality. If left to fall down to the navel centre it is consumed by the fire of the sun and gradually diminishes the life force, bringing about death and decay.

Ponder deeply on the similarities between the story of samudra manthan and the theory of khechari mudra. The amrit is contained in the skull or kumbha. There is a danger of it being consumed by the asuras or a centre in the navel region that leads to excessive attachment to bhoga and all those qualities that eventually bring about death and destruction. If instead the flow is reversed and consumed by the suras who reside within the kumbha or skull, then the effect too is reversed and one can attain radiance of body, clarity of vision, longevity and immortality along with a host of other supernatural powers.

Kumbha Mela - process of yoga

In fact, when examined closely you will discover that the very concept of pratyahara, dharana and dhyana, which forms the basis of Raja Yoga, is a process of churning. To accomplish pratyahara, the sadhaka has to first churn all his thoughts, desires, idiosyncrasies, beliefs and whatever else he has collected in the deeper layers of his unconscious and subconscious. To achieve this state of sense withdrawl is not easy, as you may well know. Just as in samudra manthan where at first the poison arose, in the same way the sadhaka at first experiences great turmoil, which can imbalance him and fill him with darkness and despair. Without the help of guru many often fail at this stage. This is why in the scriptures the guru has been compared to Shiva who, during the samudra manthan, consumed the poison thus making it possible for the amrit to manifest. Once pratyahara is stabilized, the state of dharana arises. This can be likened to the manifestation of all the divine attributes that arose, as a consequence of the poison being consumed by Lord Shiva. Because when dharana is achieved siddhis and divine powers begin to materialize in the sadhaka. When these siddhis appear they can either be devoured by the sadhaka's lower tendencies or they can flourish if his higher mind prevails. This is the great struggle between the asuras and the suras that is described in such vivid detail in the story of samudra manthan. Perfect harmony between the two nadis, ida and pingala, the sun and moon, is imperative at this stage to prevent the sadhaka from falling into the hands of his lower mind. Their influence has to be favourable because if they are well aspected they can protect the sadhaka. In addition Brihaspati (Jupiter), who represents the universal guru, also aids in this protection. He along with Saturn, who stands for accomplishment through dire change, together are also very important for the difficult task of steadiness in dharana to be achieved. Once dharana is accomplished dhyana occurs spontaneously without any effort and the sadhaka tastes the amrit or nectar of immortality.

Thus one can see how the philosophical idea of manthan vidya of the Vedas which talks of churning the karmas, was kept alive through the Puranas by a tale of brilliant ingenuity. The story of samudra manthan is so enthralling that once heard it cannot be forgotten and every child in India is familiar with it. Do you not call this foresight on the part of the vedic seers? Can you think of a better way to keep a very important science alive in the minds of the people so that hundreds and thousands of years later people still ponder on its meaning as we are doing now?

The practical application of the philosophy of manthan vidya is found in tantra as karmakanda (ritualistic worship) and in yoga as an application on one's own body. One has to applaud the unique way in which this knowledge has been kept alive. If one analyses the story of samudra manthan in the Puranas it is clear that the people who wrote this story were familiar with the concept of churning the ocean both internally as well as externally and thus could illustrate this story so beautifully that it is still alive in the minds of people. If this story was just the figment of someone's imagination then it would have died long ago.

Bahiranga and antaranga kumbha - external and internal kumbha

The story of samudra manthan is based on the Vedas in which there is a clear indication of manthan vidya.

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states that those who want wealth, fame and progeny should undertake the process of churning their karmas, manthan-karma. Adi Shankara has further testified in his treatise on this Upanishad that for achieving one's desires it is necessary to churn the karmas. He defined human life as a process of churning from start to finish where there is always a possibility of being consumed by the lower mind.

In the Brihadaranyaka the time for manthan is also clearly indicated:

It is when the sun enters uttarayan (northern solistice) and it is shukla paksha (bright fortnight). It should be noted that this is the exact time when the Kumbha is held at Prayag.

Bahiranga kumbha

Due to the research being conducted on the ocean we are now learning of the many jewels and curative herbs that lie in its depth. Modern scientists have stated that in the middle of the twenty-first century, in the year 2040, when the earth's supply of oil, coal and natural gas will be exhausted, then it is the vast resources of energy which are hidden in the depths of the ocean that will be made available for use. Not only this, scientists are discovering and recognizing the presence of such rare chemicals in the ocean that can develop extraordinary life saving drugs.

Modern scientists are even giving credence today to the thought that this earth and its life forms evolved not on land but in the depths of water. Indian Gas agencies and American Navy Research are conducting investigations on the oceans. This will produce results of immense benefit to mankind.

Thus the external gross benefits of samudra manthan which the Puranas point towards are already proving to be true. Just think that when this external manthan of the ocean is proving to be a boon to mankind, how much more beneficial and immortal will be the subtle effects of internal manthan within man.

Antaranga kumbha

In relation to the internal subtle aspects, the term samudra manthan can also be translated as atma manthan. Jaimini, the propounder of the Mimamsa philosophy, says that man is an ocean. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that man's desires are an ocean. If man churns the ocean of his desires then not only will he obtain the kalash containing the nectar of immortality, but he himself can become immortal.

The book Mumukshu Marga states that there are nine oceans by which man is engulfed. They are passion, anger, greed, arrogance, attachment, ego, hostility, enmity and jealousy and if man churns these nine oceans he can obtain prosperity, fame and inner illumination.

In the Puranas the story of samudra manthan talks of both sura and asura. This may seem a bit absurd to those who consider sura and asura as heroes and villains. However this is not so. According to the Puranas, asuras and suras are brothers. The asuras are elder to the suras. Diti is the mother of the asuras and Aditi is the mother of the suras. Their father is Rishi Kashyap, the son of Brahma, the creator.

To understand this clearly we should contemplate on the meaning of the words Diti, Aditi and Kashyap. In his bhashyas Adi Shankara has clearly said that suras or devatas are the conscious or illumined beings and asuras or daityas are those whose consciousness is scattered and dissipated. Now, because in the ordinary mortal human being the scattered and dissipated tendencies manifest first and then come knowledge and illumination, the daityas are considered to be the elder brothers and the devatas the younger brothers.

In short, through the story of samudra manthan, which points to the gross external knowledge and subtle internal extraordinary knowledge, the Puranas are trying to emphasize to us the importance of manthan vidya if we are to obtain the nectar of immortality or amrit.

Importance of bathing at the kumbha

Now, one may well argue that if it is the internal churning of man's karmas which is the objective of the Kumbha then why is so much emphasis placed on the physical act of purification through snan (bath) at the confluence of the rivers. One could well stay at home and try to achieve the same. On the face of it that sounds logical, but then why is it that all acts that we conceive mentally only attain fulfilment when we actually perform the act that we have thought out in the dark recesses of the mind. To give a gross example, it is not just sufficient for you to think of chocolate or any other food that you may like in order to satisfy that imagination; you will have to eat it as well or else you will be left craving for it. If you have passion you must express it by getting married and entering into a relationship, and so on and so forth. There are countless examples.

In the same way deep inner spiritual experience is based on such principles that by emphasizing certain occasions of time, certain places of holy tradition, and the worship of certain personalities of exceptional character, it really leads the physical as well as the mental life of man from the outward forms of sense to the inner truths of the spirit. The great avataras, sages and saints had a clear vision of the natural disabilities and limitations of the power of man. They gave to man what is in fact beyond his understanding, through a method he is capable of understanding. It may be impossible to cross a river on your own, but with the help of a boat you can surely do so.

Whatever may be the genius of the mind, it cannot think of anything except by relating it to the hypothetical conceptions of space, time and form, whether limited or extended. Spiritual observances are meant to be such manipulations of this space-time-form thinking, that its habitual mode of disintegration is controlled and directed towards the unification of the Self. The Kumbha Mela is one such occasion of disciplinary spiritual observance.

Apart from all this there is something deeply mysterious and esoteric in the simple act of worshipping a river. Ancient civilizations paid obeisance to all forms of nature. Many cultures have now lost this awareness and they are the losers. Vedic literature is abundant with the most beautiful prayers to rivers, trees, the air, and all other life giving attributes of Mother Nature.

This is because the Vedas believe that nature is not inert. It moves, it listens, it feels, it speaks, because it has many things to tell. But most importantly it creates energy fields, which we can avail ourselves of through worship, love and care. This acknowledgement of the sentience of nature is an essential part of all vedic and tantric scriptures.

Worshipping a river is not a sectarian affair, nor does it have religious connotations. It is true that Indians (Hindus) have patronized the tradition of Kumbha, but despite that the Kumbha should not just be seen as a religious gathering of Hindus. Is it just a Hindu alone who wants wealth, long life, good health, peace and prosperity for all times to come? No, each of us wants it.

The vedic lineage believed that man is not the owner of knowledge, he is only its guardian. He is the preserver, not the owner, of the knowledge or jnana which is made available to him through inner realization. The knowledge of Kumbha, a period when certain planetary conjunctions charge a particular kshetra or area with divine energy, was known to the vedic seers a very long time ago. This energy field, which occurs during the period of Kumbha at a particular time and place, is a phenomenon of the universal nature that was realized by those who had knowledge of its laws. It is a cosmic event that takes place in the realm of time and space. They handed down this knowledge to us and whoever knows it avails themselves of it.

That is why you will find people of diverse cultures at the Kumbha. They belong to races as different from one another as a European would be from an African. Their beliefs, lifestyles, languages, dress, etiquette, customs and even food habits are so different. Yet they gather there under one umbrella, that of being an Indian. Do you not call this national integrity in modern language?

Congregation of holy men at kumbha

Another fact which gives eminence to the Kumbha is that during this time sadhus, saints, tapasvins, rishis, sannyasins, paramahamsas, shankaracharyas, mahamandaleshwars of different akharas, naga sadhus, preachers, spiritual speakers and holy men from every tradition gather there. For the sadhus it is a time to discuss and debate their views on spiritual topics.

It is also a time when in the presence of the congregation of sadhus, new chiefs of the akharas are elected democratically. They come there in all their pomp and pageantry, on elephants, horses, bedecked wagons with all the symbols, flags and attire to denote their dedication to uphold Dharma.

Devotees flock there to have their darshan and obtain their blessings. When the procession of sadhus rolls out of the akharas to take the ceremonial bath, known as shahi snaan (the royal bath), bhaktas roll on the roads that they have walked on. Some even collect the dust and take it home for good luck.

In days of yore rishis of great spiritual power such as Yajnavalkya, Bharadwaja, Vashishtha and Vishwamitra bathed at Prayag. Sadhus and householders observe kalpa vaas (a month long vow) at Prayag during Kumbha. For this period they take their abode on the banks of the Ganges and follow strict observances. The great emperor of India Harshvardhana, who lived in the early seventh century (606-638), patronized the Kumbha Mela and also performed kalpa vaas at Prayag, at which time he gave away all his wealth and assets and slept like a beggar on the bare floor, returning to his kingdom empty-handed.

Seeing the immense crowds, the merchant class began to gather there. What better opportunity could there be for them to sell their wares? The crowds swell up to three crores on any given day. No small figure. That would be the size of three countries. Nowadays, many big companies have begun promoting their goods at the Kumbha. Large stores with modern goods are also present. The media too is hyperactive. Foreign TV networks have twenty-four hour live coverage, which is seen all over the world. Now you can even have an E-dip via the Net.

Due to the vast media coverage as well as word of mouth descriptions of the Kumbha, many spiritual as well as curious seekers from all over the world have also started to flock there. They say that their brains fail when they arrive at the Kumbha. They are speechless when they see so many people in such a small place for such a short time without any mishap. There are no armed guards, yet everything moves smoothly. They are struck by the power and simplicity of it all. They also have the firm belief that a bath at the Kumbha is no ordinary event as it removes the obstacles in man's progress towards greater achievements in his life.

Kumbha - the redeemer of sins

Apart from its spiritual, cultural, sociological, ecological and economic significance the Kumbha is also a very important event for the psychological treatment of man.

Although every man is essentially pure and untainted, during the course of his life he is often ridden with guilt or the idea of sin. This causes a severe aberration in his personality, relationships, lifestyle and mental outlook. In fact, the virus of sin contaminates his entire perspective of life. In time this becomes a big obstacle for his progress in any area, whether it be mental, emotional, physical or spiritual.

Sin is an idea. This idea of sin stems from society on account of certain taboos it imposes on man. For instance, certain segments of society consider a second marriage as sin. If you happened to be a woman living in that society and married twice the idea of having sinned would be imposed on you. How it takes effect depends a lot on your mental make-up but most succumb to the idea and are ridden by guilt.

Once it enters the mind, the idea of having sinned is very difficult to erase, as human beings are by nature superstitious. No amount of counselling, reasoning or medical treatment can reach those areas of the mind where sin and guilt lie hidden. Neither can any sentence or punishment erase it.

Sin is not an act. It is a deeply rooted idea or belief. Crime is the act and that is worked out through law. But what about the idea? How can that be worked out? One is struck by the idea of sin if one has some past karma attached to this idea. That is far more difficult to manage. It is in this area of psychological treatment that the Kumbha works wonders.

People go there to seek pardon for their sins, imaginary or real. Since time immemorial the majestic and peaceful Ganga has held the power to absorb and wash away the sins of all who bathe in her waters. These include the sins from past lives of which you may not be aware, but which are embedded in the deeper layers of your consciousness in seed form as samskaras. The purity of the Ganga absorbs all these and it is for this reason that a bath at the Kumbha enables man to churn his karmas or perform manthan karma, whereby the speed of his evolution is hastened.

The mighty and majestic Ganga has nurtured civilization after civilization. All rivers mingle with the Ganga at some point or the other and therefore she is the Mother. By worshipping her we worship all rivers. It was on these very banks that the rishi and muni culture of our ancestors flourished. Highly illumined and refined beings, it is they who gave us the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas and all other metaphysical and esoteric knowledge as well as knowledge of matter and the universe. We are their descendants.

It is said that during the period of Kumbha, apart from all the divine beings, all these rishis and munis assemble there to bless us. Their presence and the planetary conjunctions during that particular time surcharge the atmosphere creating an energy field, which attracts and mesmerizes people in a way that is unparalleled in the history of the world. The Kumbha is the largest congregation of its kind known to man, for which it has found a place in the Guinness Book of Records. Nowhere else do you find so many people gathering in a given period of time, at a given place, for one single purpose - to take a purificatory bath in the river.

Today ecologists all over the world are trying to bring about awareness of taking care of the inheritance which nature has bestowed on us. If we do not pay heed to them we stand to lose many things, including the chance to live. The tradition of Kumbha should impress ecologists as it achieves just what they are trying to do. Man does not learn through dictums and laws. He has a natural inclination to revolt against them and only follows them out of fear. Fear does not transform an individual. It only keeps his baser instincts in abeyance till such time when he can do what he wants. Our rishis and munis understood the inherent nature of man. They were the original ecologists. They gave man a reason to worship nature by sanctifying her and revealing her role in the evolution of mankind. Handed down from generation to generation this belief has become a part of his psyche and inherent faith.

In India you do not have to advertise the Kumbha. Just about everyone knows when it is on and leaving aside their hectic lifestyles, no matter how rich or poor, young or old, ordinary or famous, they arrive there in droves to take a dip in the waters. They do not care and most do not even know about the philosophy behind this ritual. They just know that to be there at that time is the chance of a lifetime and they should not miss it. Bearing the bitter cold and all other difficulties of getting there, they trudge miles and miles with their luggage loaded on their heads. Without even a place to rest after their tiresome journey, they remain undaunted.

If you have ever been to the Kumbha you may have had a glimpse of that scene. A moving sea of faces. All identities are lost. Just one big mass of people, moving and moving all the time. Swami Satyananda described it as 'faith in motion'. That faith which moves mountains and is known to perform miracles. That faith which leads to the richness of inner experience. It is a feast for the devout and devoted.

During the Maha Kumbha in 1989, Swami Satyananda took a bath at the sacred spot where Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati converge. That was prior to his arrival at Rikhia. After twelve years of seclusion at Rikhiadham, Sri Swamiji once again undertook the journey to Prayag during the Maha Kumbha to have a holy dip at the Sangam, on two occasions; on Makar Sankranti (14th January 2001) and Mouni Amavasya (24th January 2001). The planetary conjunctions that occurred at this Maha Kumbha last took place one hundred and forty-four years ago.

Hara Hara Gange!