Allahabad Kumbh Mela: The Kumbh Mela is held on a rotation basis every three years in Prayagraj (Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Nasik (Maharashtra) and Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh). Then there are the Ardha Kumbh Melas held every six years in Prayagraj and Haridwar. The Purna Kumbh or Maha Kumbh is organised only in Prayagraj every 12 years. As per the calendar, the next Maha Kumbh will be held in 2025 in Prayagraj.
While in Haridwar, the Kumbh is organised on the banks of river Ganga, the Melas in Prayagraj are organised at Sangam — the confluence of three of the holiest rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. In Ujjain and Nashik, the Simhastha Kumbh is organised on the banks of Godavari and Shipra, respectively.
Prayagraj, formerly Allahabad, will host the Ardh Kumbh from January 15 and all preparations for the world s largest religious gathering is underway on a war-footing. During the 55-day long event, the city is expected to record a footfall of over 15 crore. Even before the Ardh Kumbh is kicked-off, the whole city of Prayagraj is energised and the entire atmosphere is charged with pilgrims thronging the Sangam to take a holy dip in the sacred waters.
According to Hindu scriptures, it is believed that taking a holy dip in Sangam during Kumbh which is imbued with power, promotes spiritual growth, health, emotional strength and puts you on the path to moksha (liberation).
Why Allahabad Kumbh is different?
Although the drops of Amrit from the Kumbh (nectar urn) had fallen at four places — Prayag, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujjain, the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela is highest among all pilgrimages and provides one with the highest virtue. The city was known as Prayaga, illustrating its spiritual importance. It has references in the Vedas.
Among the reasons why Prayagraj Kumbh is regarded as holiest of all Kumbhs include a famous story that it was in Prayag where lord Brahma, the one who created the universe, attended a sacrificial ritual and thus the place is of great importance for Hindus.
According to Puranas, Yayati, one of the ancestors of Pandavas, left Prayaga and conquered the region of Sapta Sindhu. His five sons — Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashas later became the main tribes of the Rigveda.
The Rigveda has a special mention of Prayag as a holy place. The Vatsas was one of the sixteen Mahajanapadas (great kingdoms) of Uttarapatha (the northern part of Jambudvipa, one of the continents in Hindu history). Today, the word Uttarapatha is used to denote the geographical regions of north, west, east, northeast and central India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The Vatsas was considered a branch of the Kuru dynasty. The Vatsas mainly corresponded with the territory of Allahabad, now Prayagraj, in Uttar Pradesh, at the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
During the Ramayan, Prayag was made up of a few rishis huts at the confluence of the three rivers. It is said that lord Ram spent some time here at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj before proceeding to nearby Chitrakoot.
The other reason is that the tradition of long-term Kalpvas is practised only in Prayag and thus the city during the Kumbh Mela witnesses record number of pilgrims.
According to Matsya Purana, Maharshi Markandeya told king Yudhishtra that Prayag is protected by all the gods. The one who resides in Prayag for a month and practices complete asceticism, celibate and performs oblations including for both the deity and ancestors, fulfil all the desires.