This ancient festival pays homage to a
battle between the gods and demons for a pitcher (kumbh). Legend has it that four drops of
nectar fell from the pitcher and landed in Allahabad (Prayag), Hardwar, Ujjain and Nasik.
A smaller Kumbh Mela is rotated through the other holy cities every three years.
The 2001 Kumbh Mela ran from January 9th to
February 21st. Millions of Hindus made their pilgrimage to the massive tented city beside
the River Ganges and immersed themeselves where three rivers meet -- the Ganges,
the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati -- together known as the Sangam.
To the believers, bathing in
the river is said to purge them of their sins and break the cycle of birth and death. Even
non-hindus journey to Allahabad for the Kumbh Mela; if only to witness the spectacle.
If you didn't make it to the Allahabad
Kumbh Mela in 2001, the mini Kumbh (Magh Mela) is held annually; also between January and
February. The Ardh Kumbh is also held six years after a Kumbh Mela and has the same main
bathing days and religious significance as the Kumbh.