This year, apart from Lok Sabha poll, the major attraction in the country is Ardh Kumbh Mela which is going to be held in Prayagraj (earlier known as Allahabad) on the bank of Treveni Sangam from January to March. Millions of devotees are ready to take a dip in the holy river to wash their sins as believed by majority of Hindus. Prayagraj Ardh Kumbh Mela is likely to give devotees various experiences ranging from royal bath to evening aartis. The hindu pilgrims are excited for the year’s grand congregation commencing from Tuesday, January 15 in the holy city of Prayagraj. The day which will also be celebrated as Makar Sankranti this year will witness millions of foots entering the holy river of Ganges to take the dip into the river to shrink off their sins away. All the eyes will be on the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj, and the arrangements of Uttar Pradesh government as crores of money have been spent on it.
Ardh Kumbh Mela is going to be held in Prayagraj when the Jupiter will be in Aries, the Sun and the Moon in Capricorn; or Jupiter is in Taurus. This celestial setting is believed to be seen from January 15 to March 4 in the city of Prayagraj. Ardh Kumbh takes place in every six years whereas Maha Kumbh takes place after 12 years.
Chants of matras and prayers, millions of people taking dip in the holy river, echoes of saints and smell of the burning joss sticks, this is how Ardh Kumbh mela is described to be like this year. Kumbh Mela has been the major attraction of Hindus and is celebrated with lot of enthusiasm every three years at Prayagraj. This is termed as the largest religious gathering of the world and has also been recognized by the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
As per the Hindu Mythology, a fight broke out between the gods and the demons during Samudra Manthan. The Manthan took place to extract the Ambrosia (Amrit) out of the ocean. After the extraction of Ambrosia, it was filled in a Kumbh (pot). The Kumbh was robbed by demons and to seize the Ambrosia, Garuda (vehical of Lord Vishnu) took the pot and flew away. During his flight, he spilled few drops of Ambrosia on earth at four places namely Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nashik. The Kumbh Mela is said to be originated after this incident.
The major attraction of the Kumbh Mela is the Royal bath or the ‘Shahi Snan’ in the holy river. This bath is first taken by the saints of different Hindu religious groups (Akharas) in the holy river before any other Hindu devotee takes the privilege. It is one of the rituals of fair that the common man must take bath in the Treveni Sangam after the saints have taken a dip.
The second major attraction of the Kumbh is Babas who are the followers of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. These saints by their presence increase the holiness of the fair as well as enlighten the devotees by their speeches. The babas which are called ‘Nagas’, ‘Urdhwavahurs’, ‘Kalpvasis’, ‘Shirshasinse’ and ‘Parivajakash’ are the major stakeholders of the event.
The Modi government at the centre and Yogi government in the state of Prayagraj have made several arrangements to provide seamless facilities and experience to the devotees. 800 special trains have been started to avoid any hardships to the pilgrims. The ticket price is set to start at just Rs. 5 for Kumbh Mela. It is reported that the UP government has alloted 4,200 crore for making the Kumbh Mela a success this year. The state government has asked the central government to bear the half cost of the expenditure.
Disease Surveillance Units have been set up by the government to check the disease pattern during the fair and ways to tackle it. The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has been reported to be working hard towards facilitating safe passenger movement for Kumbh Mela. The government has also started an airboat service from Varanasi to Prayagraj for seamless movement between the two different major cities of the state. The UP police has also developed an app which is helpful for the devotees in reporting any untoward incidents. The devotees can lodge an FIR through this app and can locate hotels/lodge as well. There are around 1,22,000 toilets made available to the mass pilgrims to avoid any sanitary issues.