The Kumbh Mela is a sacred Hindu festival which millions of Hindus and spiritual aspirants of many faiths from all over the world attend.
This ancient festival originated in the Vedic Era. Once, there was a dual between the deities and demons. During the battle, they cooperated to churn the ocean of milk from which emerged the pot of nectar. Drinking the nectar would grant immortality. To prevent the demons from drinking it, the pot was snatched by Jayanti, the son of Indra. The demons chased him everywhere, throughout India, to retrieve the pot. During the chase, Jayanti rested at four places, where some drops of nectar spilt from the pot. Thus, these four places are believed to be very sacred pilgrim places and bathing there grants one spiritual immortality. These four places are:
(i) Prayag (near Allahabad in the state of Uttar Pradesh) at the confluence of the three rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
(ii) Haridwar (in the state of Uttar Pradesh) where the river Ganga enters the plains from the Himalayas.
(iii) Ujjain (in the state of Madhya Pradesh) on the banks of the river Kshipra.
(iv) Nasik (in the State of Maharashtra) on the banks of the river Godavari.
According to astrologers, the 'Kumbh Mela' takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries. The Kumbh Mela occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations where millions gather over a period of several months to bathe in the holy waters. Some of these days are regarded as the main, especially auspicious days for bathing. On these days Hindu renunciants of all denominations participate in the Shahi Snan - the royal bath. On other days people still bathe and participate in other events and processions.
For the whole event, tent cities are erected by many religious organizations in which pilgrims can stay free of charge. Many organisations set up kitchens to feed the pilgrims free of charge. Providing such services are deemed meritorious.
At this year's Kumbh Mela, spread over 200 acres in Nasik, the BAPS also rendered its services.
On 30-7-2003, one of the seniormost sadhus of BAPS, Pujya Bhaktipriya Swami (Kothari Swami) of Mumbai, inaugurated the new BAPS Swaminarayan Mandir in Nasik. From that day onwards, BAPS volunteers served hot breakfast, lunch and dinner to all pilgrims who came for the entire Kumbh Mela period.
In this way, BAPS served over 90,000 pilgrims from 30-7-2003 to 3-9-2003. In addition, on the main bathing days BAPS served tea, coffee and snacks to thousands of pilgrims along the bathing procession route.
Throughout the Kumbh Mela experienced doctors and paramedical staff of the BAPS Medical Services operated a mobile dispensary and a dispensary in the mandir, treating over 35,000 pilgrims free of charge.
Thousands also visited the BAPS exhibition on de-addiction and were inspired to shun their addictions to tobacco, gutkha, smoking, alcohol, etc.
All pilgrims who visited the BAPS-operated facilities were immensely pleased by the management, arrangements, cleanliness, discipline and respectful services of the dedicated BAPS volunteers.
On behalf of HDH Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Pujya Doctor Swami, Pujya Mahant Swami, Pujya Kothari Swami and many other BAPS sadhus participated in the ceremonial, auspicious baths.
The entire Kumbh Mela was a well organized, successful and a memorable celebration that was enjoyed by all.