The Kumbha Mela is a blessed event. It is the largest gathering of Yogis and Sadhus in the world. Even though millions of people attend the Kumbha - it is still only by Divine invitation that one can make it to the Kumbha. It is even rarer to be there with a Guru. Attending a pilgrimage with a Guru transforms the seeker from being a mere tourist into a participant in the spiritual process that happens continuously at sacred places. The Guru tunes the spiritual energies present during the Kumbha so that they can reach you amidst the noise and chaos of the huge crowds gathered at the Kumbha. The Guru also prepares your aura to be able to receive the high spiritual energies that only a few Yogis have access to.
It is said that a special planetary alignment occurs during the Kumbha Mela which empowers the water of the Ganges river such that by bathing in it, one is freed from the vicious earthly cycle of birth and death. Once having bathed in the Ganges during the Kumbha, the seeker faces no or minimal pain during death and is liberated to either the higher realms of heaven or attains moksha upon death.
The normal Kumbh Mela is held every three years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is held every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad (Prayag) while the Purna (complete) Kumbh mela takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik, based on planetary movements. The Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag after 144 years (after 12 'Purna Kumbh Melas'). The Mela we are headed to in January is the Ardha Kumbha Mela in Allahabad that takes place every six years.
The ancient name of Allahabad is Prayag. Prayag has been one of the ancient pilgrimage centers of India, and it represents the confluence of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga, near the city of Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh. Prayag is revered in the hymns of the Rig Veda. Prayag is referred to as Tri-veni Sangam ("the confluence of the three rivers or veins") - where it is believed that the subterranean river Saraswati also meets the Ganga along with the Yamuna.
Legend has it that at the time of the great deluge which submerges the earth at the end of each aeon, Prayag remains intact and that Vishnu resides here as a Yoga Murty, on a banyan leaf in the form of a child. Vishnu is referred to as "Veni Mahadeva", and Shiva is believed to be personified here as the immortal banyan tree or the "Akshaya Vata Vriksham".
Prayag is also associated with the legend of the celestial nectar of immortality - "amrutam". A variation of the legend has it that Jupiter, the guru of the Devas, picked up the pot of the celestial nectar as it emerged from the milky ocean and made off with it, to prevent the demons from having access to it. The enraged demons chased him. In the course of the chase, the pot Kumbha overflowed, and the nectar fell into four different places on earth, corresponding to Prayag, Nasik, Ujjain and Haridwar. Bathing at the confluence of the three rivers - Triveni Sangam is considered special in the Hindu month of Magha - when the sun resides in Capricorn - especially on Makara Sankranti, Radha Saptami, the full moon and new moon day.
Our group will be taking the dip in the Ganges on Makar Sankranti on Jan 15.