[ˌkʊm ˈmeɪlə, ˌkʊm məˈlɑː]
A major spiritual and religious festival on the banks of river Ganga. During this time millions of spiritual aspirants converge on the banks of the river Ganga and take a ceremonial dip. A nexus of cosmic energy every, twelve years, celebrated at Allahabad and other places in India by a gathering of sages and mystics.
▵ Kumbh Mela – The Greatest Gathering
Sadhguru: Indian culture is the most complex and colorful culture on the planet. You will see, the way people look, their language and food, their way of dressing, music and dance, everything is different every 50 or 100 kilometers in the country. One place where you can really see the complexity of this culture is the Kumbh Mela.
During the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2001, 60 million people gathered in Allahabad. I have never had a longing to go to such places, but there was so much talk happening, so, to see a grand event of unimaginable scale, I decided to drive there from Coimbatore.
It is one the most incredible sights in the world. I went there at around 2AM and all kinds of people from different parts of the country were there sitting around. They had no place to sleep, so they had little fires going with their own song and dance, culture and language. The worst and the best of humanity landed up there – every kind of crook who wants to try his hand, but also many yogis of great accomplishment. People have been meeting like this for thousands of years. It is a tradition and a culture that you cannot kill, and it has a certain social relevance. But it also has a certain spiritual strength.
The earth and moon journey in cycles. Everybody is subject to these cycles, but these cycles can remain cycles of bondage, or they can become a means of transcendence – from one cycle of life to another. One who is longing for liberation is constantly seeking how to become free from the cycles one has created. There are various kinds of cycles, the longest being 144 years; once in 144 years, distinctive occurrences happen in the solar system for which we have a Maha Kumbh Mela, which last happened in 2001.
The Kumbh Melas are held at specific spots in the country around which a whole energy system was created. Because the planet is spinning, it creates a centrifugal force. From 0 to 33 degrees latitude, this force is largely working in a vertical manner in your system, and particularly at 11 degrees, the energies are shooting straight up. So, the ancients calculated and marked out points on the planet where there is a supportive influence on people. Many points happen to be confluences of rivers and there is a benefit to bathing in those areas. If one is at that spot on a particular day, rare possibilities become available, so people moved there to make use of these situations. Many of these people are peasants and illiterate people who travel long distances with meagre resources, just wanting to be there, longing for mukti. Nowhere else on the planet does an entire population long for liberation with such intensity.
Most Indians are unaware of the depth of mysticism and spiritual process that has happened and continues to happen in India. This land has always been known as the spiritual capital of the world, simply because no other culture has looked at the inner sciences with as much understanding. Here, liberation or mukti has been the highest goal, and even God is considered just a stepping stone towards that.
Unfortunately, the spiritual culture we see today has in many ways been broken by invasions, and distorted by long spells of poverty. Still, the basic ethos of the spiritual process is not destroyed, nor can it be destroyed. It is time that we reap the benefits of this profound tradition in its full glory.
▵ Kumbh Mela at Haridwar
The Kumbh Mela at Haridwar is possibly the world’s largest gathering. Spiritual seekers from all over India and from every kind of spiritual path come together to bathe in the sacred Ganga river on this auspicious day, which is calculated based on planetary alignments. The mela happens every 12 years, which is one solar cycle, and is a number that is significant on the spiritual path. The Kumbh Mela is an enduring icon of India’s priceless spiritual heritage.
▵ Reviving the Kumbha Mela
For thousands of years, the Kumbha Mela has been a knowledge base, and a place and time when large numbers of people found a source of inspiration, healing and transformation. Unfortunately, in the last few centuries it has lost its significance because the nation has not been in our own hands.
The Kumbha Mela is an offshoot of Bhuta Shuddhi, the fundamental dimension of yoga, which means to cleanse the five elements in our system. Everything – this body, this planet, the solar system and the universe – is a play of the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and space. The entire universe – trillions of forms that life has taken – is just a mischief of five elements. This shows the brilliance behind creation. In the yogic system, it is understood that if you gain some mastery over these five elements, your health, wellbeing, prosperity and access to the universe are taken care of.
The Kumbha Mela is an offshoot of Bhuta Shuddhi, the fundamental dimension of yoga, which means to cleanse the five elements in our system.
The elemental composition of the human body is such that 72% is water, 12% is earth, 6% is air, 4% is fire, the remaining is akash or space. For one to live well, water plays the most important role because 72% of the body is water.
The water within you responds to the water outside of you. Water is not a commodity, it is life-making material. The water that you drink is taking the form of a human being. It has memory and intelligence. Only if you treat it well, it tends to behave well. This science of how to treat water was culturally established in this country, but these aspects have largely been lost because we are becoming a very economy-driven culture. Economics is only about our survival, about procurement of what we need. Economics should not be the guide point of our lives.
The Kumbh or this science of making use of the confluence of rivers at certain latitudes came not because of belief, but from a keen observation of how life and the different forces around us function. We identified many spots where certain forces are at work at different times of the year and different times of the solar cycle – which lasts for a little over twelve years. Wherever two water bodies meet with a certain force, it creates a churning of water. This body being 72% water, the body receives maximum benefit if you are there at that particular time.
It is important that you at least practice some simple ten to twelve minute sadhana for forty days at home, and then take a dip at the Kumbh.
If you stay at the Kumbh for a mandala – a period of 48 days – and spend time in the water daily with the appropriate sadhana, you can transform your physical body, psychological framework, energy framework and above all, find enormous spiritual growth within you.
Unfortunately, today, this has slowly become more about a quick visit and one dip. If it is not possible to spend 48 days at the Kumbh, it is important that you at least practice some simple ten to twelve minute sadhana for forty days at home, and then take a dip at the Kumbh. This will make a huge difference. If a certain volume of energy is present somewhere, the important thing is whether you have the ability to receive and perceive it. If you cannot perceive it, everything will go waste.
It is my intention and my wish that this Kumbha Mela should not become just one more ritual, where a huge number of people gather, get viral infections and go home with some story to tell of the weird people they saw. This should become a transformative process. This is important in the making of this nation because a nation does not become great with just economic growth. It is about the inner balance that we gain.The rest of the world knows how to do, but they want to know how to be. This is something that we can offer to the world.
As Indians, if we display a different level of equanimity within us, in the next twenty-five years we will be the most valued nation because this will be the biggest challenge for the rest of the world. The rest of the world knows how to do, but they want to know how to be. This is something that we can offer to the world, because when it comes to the inner mechanics of a human being – I am not saying this with the prejudice of being Indian – no other culture has explored the inner dimension of the human being with the profoundness that this culture has.
This is something in which we have invested our time, life and energies for almost eight to ten thousand years. This is not something that we believe or made up as philosophies, but something we observed and made tools to access.
It is my wish and my blessing that this Kumbha Mela should become a huge step in that direction, to awaken the world to this possibility.
▵ Kumbh Mela – The Greatest Gathering (Isha)
▵ Reviving the Kumbha Mela (Isha)