What to do and what to expect while visiting Prayagraj for the Ardh Kumbh Mela 2019
The Prayagraj Ardh Kumbh Mela is underway. Even as you read this, millions are making their way in and out of the Prayagraj (Allahabad) to take a dip in the confluence of the Ganga and the Yamuna. Kumbh Mela 2019 will be on till March 4, the day Hindus celebrate Mahashivratri. By all estimates, the Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of people on the planet with over 50 million faithful arriving on the shores of the rivers to take a dip on the holy day of Mauni Amavasya (February 4). The holy dip or the Shahi Snaan (literally translated as Royal Bath will take place one more time on February 10, the day of Basant Panchami. If you’re too late for this, it’s ok. Because even though you may have missed the Shahi Snaan, you can indeed take a dip on two other important days – Maaghi Poornima that falls on February 19 and Mahashivratri on March 4.
It’s prudent to remember that the Ardh Kumbh Mela is nothing like you’d have ever seen. The tent city built for the millions of devotees stretches out for miles. And, even on a regular day, the sheer number of people you’d come across can be quite overwhelming. This is the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which takes place every six years and a (believe it or not) a smaller version of the Purna Kumbh Mela that takes place once every 12 years. The next Purna Kumbh Mela is scheduled to take place in 2025.
Here is the Yahoo Guide to the Prayagraj Kumbh — everything you wanted to know about what to do and expect from Kumbh Mela 2019:
Why is the Kumbh Mela celebrated
The origins of the Kumbh Mela can be linked to the myth of the war between demons and gods over a pot (or kumbh) of elixir. As the gods managed to snatch the pot from the demons, four drops of the elixir were believed to have fallen on earth. These four places – the present day Prayagraj, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nashik – thus gained the right to host the Kumbh Melas.
The battle is said to have raged for 12 celestial days or 12 human years and it is hence that the Purna Kumbh Mela is hosted once every dozen years. The Ardh Kumbh Mela, which is underway right now in Prayagraj, is hosted once every six years. However the grandest of them all – the Maha Kumbh Mela – is held only once every 144 years in Prayagraj. You missed the last one in 2013.
What to do at Kumbh Mela 2019:
By all estimates, the Kumbh is the largest religious gathering of people on the planet. But you don’t have to be religious to visit the Kumbh Mela, as I discovered at the Uttar Pradesh Travel Writers Conclave, because the Kumbh is to be seen to be believed.
Take a cruise along the rivers
While you may not be able to make it all the way to the end of the tent city because of the many pontoon bridges that connect the banks, the Uttar Pradesh Government has organised cruises that will take you for up to 20 km along the banks starting from Sujawan Ghat.
Take a chopper ride
An aerial view of the festival is perhaps the best way to understand the magnitude of the event that is the Kumbh Mela. The Uttar Pradesh State Tourism Development Corporation (UPSTDC) is operating a helicopter service that takes off from Arail helipad in trans-Yamuna area and flies over the Sangam as well as other areas of the Kumbh Mela.
Take a holy dip
You can, of course, take a holy dip at the Triveni Sangam on any day you want. But there are three more auspicious days left during the Kumbh Mela when you can wash away your sins. Remember, you will need to stay up the night to make your way to the bathing site. Be prepared for a two-hour walk. Private tour operators will help you navigate through the crowd. It won’t be a walk in the part and since it’s winter, dress accordingly.
These are the most important dates for bathing during Ardh Kumbh 2019
We are half way into the Kumbh Mela but you still have three very important dates when you can take a holy dip in Triveni Sangam or the confluence of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati. Note that, geographically, there are only two rivers that meet at Prayagraj – Ganga and Yamuna.
February 10, Basant Panchami
The third and the final Shahi Snaan is scheduled to take place at daybreak of February 10, the day of Basant Panchami. This is the day that marks the beginning of spring. It is also the day that’s dedicated to the goddess of learning, Saraswati.
February 19, Maghi Poornima:
According to Hindu beliefs, Vishnu is said to make his home in the river Ganga during the month of Magh, thus making a dip in the river an important one. But the Triveni Sangam at Prayagraj isn’t the only place where you can take a dip to wash away your sins. There are several bathing festivals held along the banks Kaveri, Krishna, Tapi, Narmada, Yamuna, and of course, Ganga, throughout the course of these rivers. If you happen to be at Rameshwaram, a dip in the sea at Kanyakumari is said to be just as auspicious as is a bath in Pushkar Lake in Rajasthan.
March 4, Mahashivratri:
This is the day when the Kumbh Mela draws to a close. Mahashivratri is dedicated to Shiva and is celebrated across the country. It is also the final day when you can bathe in the Ganga during Kumbh.