London | Tue, 18 Dec 2012 | By PTI :: The Kumbh Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, to be held at Sangam in Allahabad early next year has been described as the “greatest show on Earth” in a four-year study by British and Indian researchers.
Up to 100 million people will gather on the shores of the Ganges to celebrate the Hindu festival commencing on January 14, 2013. For four years the team of British and Indian researchers have been studying the event, seeking to understand how people treat each other, how they experience the crowd and what impact the crowd has on their everyday lives.
They will present their findings at a special event at Allahabad University on January 24, 2013. The study described the Kumbh Mela as an incredible event and the “greatest show on Earth”.
The Kumbh Mela attracts worldwide attention as a remarkable spectacle: millions of pilgrims bathing in the Ganges, parades of gurus on thrones, flanked by naked Naga Sadhus smeared in ash.
This research, led by Nick Hopkins at the University of Dundee, Prof Stephen Reicher at the University of St Andrews, and Prof Narayanan Srinivasan at the University of Allahabad shows it to be remarkable in other ways as well.
How is it that a vast city of strangers emerges from nothing every year, and yet it functions harmoniously? How is it that people thrive in an environment that is densely crowded, intensely noisy and often insanitary?
The event in Allahabad will provide the answers to these and other questions about the Mela. It will also provide insights that are relevant, not only to the Mela, but go to the heart of processes that make human social life possible, which create (or undermine) social cohesion and which shape our sense of well being. ‘Sometimes we look at the Mela as an exotic event and focus on how different the pilgrims are from us. Our work shows how the pilgrim experience has lessons for all of us about how to create a good community and to ensure that people thrive in the community,’ Hopkins said. ‘By all the tenets of conventional wisdom, the Mela shouldn’t work. It is crowded, noisy and unsanitary.
One might expect people to be stressed, quarrelsome and conflictual. Yet the event is harmonious and people are serene. Studying the Mela has forced us to reconsider many basic beliefs about how people function in society,’ Reicher said. Narayanan said, ‘This has been the largest ever social science collaboration between the UK and India and possibly the most successful. The event in Allahabad will be very exciting. It will reveal findings that are sure to surprise people. It will change their understanding of crowds and communities.’
Hindu Existence Post Script:
The Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage in which Hindus gather at the Ganges, river Godavari and river Shipra, where bathing for purification from sin is considered especially efficacious.
Mainly, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad, the Purna (complete) Kumbh takes place every twelve years, at four places Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. The Maha(great) Kumbh Mela which comes after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’, or 144 years, is held at Allahabad.
Five Types of Kumbh Melas • Maha Kumbh Mela – occurring every 144 years – only in Allahabad. • Purna Kumbh Mela – after every 12 years – last one took place in January 2001 in Allahabad. • Ardh Kumbh – 6th year after Kumbh Mela. • Kumbh Mela – every 3rd years, rotating through Prayag, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjain. • Magh Mela – Annual, held every year except years of Kumbh Mela and Ardh Kumbh Mela Held in Magh (Jan-Feb); hence the name. Only in Allahabad.
According to the Mela Administration’s estimates, around 70 million people participated in the 45-day Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, in 2007.
The previous Kumbh Mela, held in 2010 in Haridwar, was, before it occurred, estimated by the authorities to attract between 30 and 70 million people. Coming Ardha Kumbh Mela will start on 14-January-2013 at Allahabad.
Most Significant Days During The Kumbh Mela
Makar Sankranti (14th January 2013 Sunday) – Shahi Snan
A Holy bath during this period carries special significance. Those who take a holy bath in the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri acquire pious credits . Ganga is considered as the river of heaven. This river came to earth by the religious austerity of Bhagirath and river had conjunction with ocean for the reclamation of ocean. The day Ganga dissolved in ocean was the day of Makar Sankranti. Hence, the virtue of bathing in Ganga today is much more than any other day. In Kolkata, lakhs of devotees come to take bath in Ganga sagar. In Allahabad as well, great masses come for bathing and doing charity on the banks of Sangam. One month of Kalpvas(kumbh mela) is also started in Allahabad from the day of Makar Sankranti, which is been followed since the era of Ramayana.
Paush Purnima (27 January 2013 Sunday)
The day occurs when the moon is full in the Hindu month of Paush. This is the last full moon of winter. By this time, the sadhu and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims arrive at the Kumbh Mela. On the day of Paush Purnima, devotees take baths in various sacred rivers like Ganga and Yamuna. People take baths at various places including Haridwar and relieve themselves of all their sins and problems. Taking baths, donations, charities etc are considered very sacred on this day. The baths of Magh month start with Paush Purnima and hence, this day is considered very important. It is believed that all wishes come true on this day.
Ekadashi Snan (6 February 2013)
Ekadashi, Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month Magha, 2069 Vikram Samvat. At times Ekadashi fasting is suggested on two consecutive days. It is advised that Smartha with family should observe fasting on first day only. The alternate Ekadashi fasting, which is the second one, is suggested for Sanyasis, widows and for those who want Moksha. When alternate Ekadashi fasting is suggested for Smartha it coincides with Vaishnava Ekadashi fasting day. Ekadashi fasting on both days is suggested for staunch devotees who seek for love and affection of Lord Vishnu.
Mauni Amavasya Snan (10 February 2013 Sunday) – Shahi Snan
For the holy men and women, this is the main bathing day. New members to various holy monastic orders receive their first initiation on this day. The Amavasya of Magh Masa is called the Mauni Amavasya. Sun and Moon enter and the Capricorn sign, because of the transit, on this day. This day is celebrated as the birthday of Manu Rishi. It is believed, Lord Brahma gave origination to Maharaja Manu and queen Shatrupa. Hence, this day is considered as the beginning of the universe creation. Capricorn sign has the Yoga of Sun and Moon which increases the significance of this Amavasya. Bathing in Sangam of Allahabad, gives virtues to an individual, on this day. According to some scholar, Maun Vrat should be observed. Maun (silent) Vrat means to control all our senses. It depends on a person for how long he wants to observe silence. People take the resolution of Maun Vrat for a day, or a month, or for one year.
Basant Panchami Snan (14 February 2013 Thursday) – Shahi Snan
This is the fifth day of the luminous half of the lunar month and is the beginning of spring in North India. Vasant Panchami day is dedicated to Goddess of learning Maa Saraswati, the source of knowledge, enlightment, music, arts, science and culture. Goddess Saraswati is worshipped on Vasant Panchami day. Vasant Panchami is also known as Shri Panchami and Saraswati Panchami.
Rath Saptami Snan (17 February 2013 Sunday)
Rath Saptami festival is observed on the seventh day of Shukla Paksha in the Magh Month (January – February) in the traditional Hindu calendar.
Bhishma Ekadasi Snan ( 21 February 2013 Thursday)
On this day, Bhishma Pithamaha, the oldest, wisest, most powerful and most righteous person belonging to the Kuru dynasty (approx. over 5000 years ago), narrated the greatness of Lord Krishna through Sri Vishnu Sahasranama to Yudhishtira, the eldest brother of Pandavas.
Maghi Purnima Snan (25 February 2013 Monday) Magh Purnima or Magha Pournami, also known as Maha Maghi, is one of the auspicious Pournami days for Hindu devotees. Purnima is considered as significant in terms of spiritual practice and performing religious rituals.Samudra Snan or Punya Nadi Snanan (holy dip in holy waters) on Maha Maghi is highly meritorious deed. It is auspicious for Snana, Daana, Japa, and Parayana.
And at last Mahashivratri Snan on 10 Mar 2013 Wednesday.