CAULDRON OF CHURNING IS MAHAKUMBHA : ANCIENT AND UNIQUE

Tradition of Mahakumbha  is ancient, almost 8,000 years old. Adhyatmika  and cosmic churning of almost unlimited diversity that occurs during Mahakumbha  is diametrically opposite, rather antithesis of the dismal / monotonous world of acquisition, possession and sense-satisfaction. It is a unique and spectacular exhibition of faith and order underneath chaos on such a mass scale that no other event anywhere in the world can be dubbed similar or close to it by any stretch of imagination. Mahakumbha  is a re-affirmation of underlying unity of innumerable strands of faiths, societal traditions, religious conventions and ancient values in this sprawling, continent-sized nation.

Hinduism  is so all encompassing that it includes even it’s own complete negation in the expression of atheism ! Tranquility, renunciation and contentment are so defining that it is believed, best Hindu  is the one who happens to be least Hindu !! These are some of the attributes that baffle even well-informed ones about Hinduism. Counterpart of Abraham in Jewish / Christian faiths and Ibrahim in Islam, Param Brahmatma  is the Supreme Absolute who holds the fort for all Sanatana  followers as the Ultimate Being from whom all other entities, animate as well inanimate, originate. If they mean to address the same Absolute Entity, Param Brahmatma  as Abraham and Ibrahim respectively, so be that.

Sanatana Hinduism  is the most ancient faith, is an axiom that is impregnable. Also the fact that every human being is born a Hindu, thereafter only anointed as Sanatana Hindu, Christian or Muslim by virtue of well-appointed religious practices. It is a faith that never had rigid geographical boundaries for centuries. It is the civilizational / cultural /ethnic identity that defined Hindu Rastra  i.e. nation within which political boundaries were hazy and transitional. It may be declared with emphasis that Hindu Rastra  always existed while country / countries existed in the form of kingdoms. It is at it’s best on display during Mahakumbha  when all ‘countries’ come together on a designated celestial occasion to assert Sanatana Hindu Rastra.

When Buddhism and Jainism  appeared to be gaining an upper hand owing to several factors one of which being absence of assertiveness among Hindu-s, Adi Samkaracarya  raised four Mutt-s i.e.high seats of learning and practice of Sanatana Vedanta  in four distant corners of the nation. Saffron i.e. colour of flame was ordained for Hindu  monks to remind them incessantly, they are akin to the fire that blazes, annihilates all possessions for others. Also, they are ordained to find themselves lying on their pyre unflinchingly, to incinerate their unredeemed Karma-s, Samskara-s thereof and to ensure, no more Samskara-s are added afresh. Another organisation that Adi Samkaracarya  raised was Akhara-s which imparted martial arts with the purpose to defend Hinduism  against any aggression. Akhara  is the modified version of Aksara  which means indestructible. Thus, mission statement was amply conveyed through the choice of title itself of these establishments. Seven Akhara-s happen to be Avahana, Atala, Mahanirvani, Ananda, Niranjani, Juna  and Agni. In due course, owing to sharp differences among followers, Vaisnava Acarya-s Ramananda, Ramanuja  and Vallabha  raised Digambara, Nirvani  and Nirmohi Akhara-s respectively for Vaisnavite-s.

Sri Chandra, Son of Guru Nanaka Deva  aspired to succeed his illustrious father. When Bhai Lehna  succeeded him as Guru Angada, Sri Chandra  was deeply disappointed, founded Udasina  sect with the main mission to cultivate indifference towards all possessions. However, Udasina  sect was not accepted by main Sikh Pantha  while they were warmly accepted by Hinduism. Later, when Udasina  fractionated into three sects of Bada-, Naya– and NirmalUdasina, total number of Akhara-s went up to 13. Total number of Akhara-s has remained constant since then. These Akhara-s have been organising Mahakumbha-s all these years.

Earliest description of Mahakumbha  is available in the 17 year travelogue, from 629 to 645 CE of Chinese traveller Huan Tsang. He travelled across the country and inscribed details of the grand festival. Mahakumbha  is held at four locations in the country with those being Haridwara, Prayaga, Nashika and Ujjaina. Concept of Mahakumbha  is woven around an event narrated in Bhagavat Purana. During the chase and tussle to catch hold of AmritKalasa  i.e. Pot of Ambrosia / Nectar capable of bestowing immortality, between Sura-s i.e. celestial deities and Asura-s i.e. celestial Dasyu-s, few drops spilled over and fell on the ground at those four locations followed by Mahakumbha  being organised periodically. Mahakumbha  is an elaborate divine message for all of us to allow all higher instincts within us to rise over lower / carnal instincts and purify ourselves symbolically by washing ourselves in the holy waters on auspicious days like Vasanta Pancami  etc. It is with that pious intent that a certain celestial / planetary configuration was selected by our ancients which is maximally facilitative / supportive to the purpose in terms of divine energy. Simhastha Kumbha  in Ujjaina  is held when Jupitar enters into Leo’s constellation and Sun into Aries of the Zodiac. Kumbha  is held at Haridwara  when Jupiter enters into Aquarius while Sun into Aries. It is organised at Prayaga  when Jupiter enters into Aries while Sun and Moon into Capricorn. Nashika  is the festival site when Jupiter enters into Leo. Thus, emerged the 12 year cycle to hold Mahakumbha, not only for Adhyatmika  self-elevation but also a sacrosanct festive occasion for all Sadhu-s / Sannyasi-s to congregate and deliberate over related issues of faith, society, nation etc. It is also a grand occasion for common folks to inter-mingle with ascetics / renunciates from all over and rejuvenate themselves spiritually. It is one of the ancient ways of inspiring us periodically for the highest mission of human life while dwelling in the midst of all vanities and venalities. Undergoing trials and tribulations during cosmic journey from I-centrism to U-Centrism with a few dips in holy waters, spiritual enrichment in company of Sannyasi-s, unmitigated dedication unto all constituents of infinite cosmos…are truly extra-ordinary experiences.

Some 120 million pilgrims visited Prayaga Kumbha  in 2013 over a period of a couple of months while some 50 million are expected in Ujjaina Kumbha  2016. Such a huge scale of congregation is enough to mesmerise the whole world. Mark Twain was precise when he commented, “It is done in love or done in fear, I do not know…no matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination.”

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