What's the significance of Maghi Purnima and how it's celebrated in India

The Xennial
Maghi Purnima is an important date in the Kumbh Mela calendar
Maghi Purnima is an important date in the Kumbh Mela calendar

Maghi Purnima is the full moon day in the Hindu month of Magha that also marks the end of the month. While full moon days (or Purnimas) are generally considered auspicious in Hindu mythology, Maghi Purnima is even more so. One of the reasons that makes this day (and indeed the month) auspicious is the belief that Vishnu who makes Ganga his home for an entire month. The day of Maghi Purnima is associated with the worship of Brihaspati, the advisor to the gods. It is also a belief among the Hindus that Gandharva descends to earth to take a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam at Prayagraj (Allahabad) making it an important day in the calendar of the Kumbh Mela.

When is Maghi Purnima 2019?

This year, Maghi Purnima falls on February 19. If you’re travelling to the Kumbh Mela, you can expect more than usual crowds and millions taking a dip in the Triveni Sangam – the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers.

How is Maghi Purnima celebrated in India

Obviously, Prayagraj will be the epicentre of the celebrations. With the belief of Vishnu residing in the Ganga, taking a dip in the Sangam is considered auspicious and is said to guarantee passage to the heavens.

However, Prayagraj isn’t the only place where you can bathe. Quite literally, anywhere along the Ganga will do. Bathing festivals are organised at various places along the course of the river Ganga. Haridwar, Rishikesh and Varanasi are among the places where you can take a dip in the river.

Several cities along the rivers Kaveri, Krishna, Tapi, Narmada and Yamuna also host festivals where the faithful bathe to cleanse their sins and pray for a spot in heaven.

It isn’t just the rivers where you can bathe. According to Hindu beliefs, any water body works. And so a dip at Rameshwaram where the three seas – Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea – meet is considered auspicious too. Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan also organises bathing festivals on Maghi Purnima.

Those who aren’t able to make it to one of these water bodies, tend to add a small amount of water from Ganga to their bath. The bath – whether in one’s home or in the holy rivers – has to be complete before sunrise.

Down south, in Madurai, Maghi Purnima is celebrated with a spectacular festival where the statues of Meenakshi and her consort Sundeshwara are mounted on floats amidst a grand procession.

It isn’t just the Hindus that consider Magha Purnima auspicious. The belief among Buddhists is that Gautam Buddha pronounced his impending death on this day.

As with most auspicious days, Hindus fast during Maghi Purnima, having just one meal throughout the entire day. The stories of Satyanarayana are recited in homes of the faithful and temples and throughout the month the devout donate food (especially made of sesame seeds) and clothes to the needy.