Well the normal Kumbh Mela is generally celebrated once in 4 years, the half or the ardh kumbh mela happens once in six years in the holy city of Haridwar and Prayag, the complete or the Purna Kumbh happens once in twelve years, at four different places, including Prayag, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nasik. The most significant Kumbh mela which is Maha Kumbh, happens after the completion of 12 Purna Kumbh Melas, or approximately 144 years, and it is held in Allahabad.
Well the last Ardh Kumbh Mela, was performed for over forty five days, which was during the beginning of the year 2007, over seventeen million pilgrims gathered to offer their prayers and to take a dip in the Ganges during the Kumbh at Prayag, and especially during the time of Makara Sankaranthi, close to five million people took a dip in Ganges, on a Single day.
The last Maha Kumbh Mela, was held in the year 2001, and over sixty million pilgrims gathered on the banks of the Ganges, this is one of the largest gathering anywhere in the world’s recorded history.
Kumbh Meal is basically a huge gathering of Hindu pilgrim on the banks of holy river Ganga. It is celebrated at various locations depending on the position of the planet of the planet Jupiter and the Sun. Well when the position of both sun and Jupiter are in the zodiac sign Leo, Kumbh is celebrated in the place called Trimbakeshwar, near Nasik, when the sun are in Aries, then it is celebrated in Haridwar, at the time when Jupiter is in Taurus, and the sun is in Capricorn, the Kumbh is celebrated in Prayag, well the Jupiter and the sun are situated in Scorpio, the festival happens in Ujjain, all the celebration dates are calculated in advance as per the position of the three celestial powers Moon, Jupiter and the Sun.
Kumbha is basically a Sanskrit word, it actually means round mud pot with out handle or in genera a pitcher. It is sometime also referred to as the Kalasha, it is also sign in the Indian Astrology for the zodiac Aquarius, the sign in which the festival is celebrated, the mela basically means gathering or the meeting point, or simple words it is a fair.
Well the first written proof of the Kumbha Mela, could be accounted on one of the well known Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang or Xuanzang, who visited India during the sixth century AD, when the country was ruled by the famous Harshavardhana. However, it is believed that the traditions has been maintained for thousands of years, since the ancient India or the Vedic period, where the river festivals initially started getting organized, in the Hindu mythology, this beginning is actually could be found in one of the famous creation myths, and also the theories of Hindus on evolution, Well the ocean of milk episode is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, Ramayana and also Mahabharata.
As per the epics the story says, the gods had lost their power and strength, and in order to regain the strength, they decided the churning the Ksheera Sagara which means the ocean of milk, for the required amrita, which means the nectar of immortality. This forced them make an agreement with their enemies, the demons, to work together and divide the nectar equally there after. However at the time when the kumbh which contained the nectar appeared, then began a fight between the gods and the demons. The fight continued for twelve days and twelve nights, which is 12 years according to the human time. Both the demons and the gods continued the furious fight in the sky for the sake of the nectar. It is also believed that God Vishnu, flew away with the Kumbh filled with the nectar and four drops spill in four different places, which are Prayag, Ujjain, Haridwar and Nasik.
Well according to Imperial Gazetteer of India, the cholera outbreak occurred at the 1892 mela in Haridwar, which forced to provide facilities and rapid improvement process took place. They formed a Haridwar Improvement society. In the year 1903, approximately four hundred thousand devotees attended the meal, and in the 1954 mela, close to five hundred pilgrims died because of the stampede, that occurred in Haridwar and hundreds and thousands were injured. Well in the year 1998, approximately ten million people gathered to celebrate the Kumbh Meal in Haridwar and by taking a dip in the holy river of Ganga. Well in the year 2001, at the time of Maha Kumbh Meal, over one million foreign tourists and it is estimated that over sixty million people visited the holy city of Allahabad, this meal was particularly important as it takes place only once in 144 years.
Well one of the most important ritual during the event is the custom of bathing in the banks of the river Ganga. So far the highest attendance was in Nasik with over seventy five million people. Well the other activities during the festival include religious discussions, mass feeding, and singing of devotional songs. The religious assemblies during which the doctrines are discussed and standardized, Kumbh Mela is one of the most sacred journeys for Hindu pilgrims, hundreds and thousands of holy men and women attend the meal, sadhus, wearing saffron sheets, with ashes rubbed all over their body could be easily seen during this feat. Well the unique Naga Sanyasis, who do not wear anything at all even in the severe North Indian winters, could also be seen during the mela.
After visiting the great gathering of Kumbh Mela, in the year 1895, the famous traveler Mark Twain quoted, “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”