Kumbh Mela is the largest spiritual gathering of mankind on the Earth. Millions of devotees take a holy dip in the sacred water during the mela.
Enjoy the Guided Phototour of Ujjain Kumbh Mela 2016.
History of Kumbh Mela
The first written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the books of the Chinese monk Xuanzang. However, similar observances date back many centuries, where the river festivals first started getting organized. According to medieval Hindu theology, its origin is found in one of the most popular medieval Puranas, the Bhagavata Purana. The Samudramanthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. The account goes that the Devas had lost their strength by the curse of the holy man Durvasa, and to regain it, they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. They sent them to Lord Vishnu who instructed them to churn the primordial ocean of milk, Ksheera Sagara, in order to receive amrita (the nectar of immortality). This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the Asuras, to work together with a promise of sharing the proceeds of the churning equally. The Mandara Mountain was used as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the king of serpents, agreed to become the rope for churning. They churned the ocean for 1000 years. The demons held Vasuki’s head and the Gods held his tail while churning. At last Dhanwantari appeared, holding the Kumbh or the pot containing amrita (elixir of immortality) in his palms. But the Gods were sly. They did not want amrita to fall in the hands of demons and entrusted its safety to the deities Brihaspati, Surya, Shani, and Chandra. This enraged the demons who attacked the Gods. The frightened Gods ran away with the Kumbh and were chased by the Asuras. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the Devas and Asuras fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, the drops of amrita fell down from the Kumbh at four places: Allahabad (Prayag), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. Because 12 days of the Gods are equivalent to 12 years for the humans; the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of the four places – banks of the river Godavari in Nasik, Shipra in Ujjain, the Ganges in Haridwar, and at the Sangam of Ganges, Yamuna, and Saraswati in Allahabad. It is believed that at these times these rivers flow with amrita.
The celebration of Kumbh Mela takes place at the four sacred places as per the position of Sun and Jupiter in different zodiac signs. Poorna Kumbh is held at Ujjain when the zodiac sign Scorpio (Vrishchik Rashi) indicates the presence of Jupiter and Sun. On the occasion of Kumbh Mela, religious fervor reaches its peak when millions of pilgrims take dips in and worship the sacred river Shipra. Sages and devotees from every nook and corner attend the religious ceremony of Kumbh Mela to attain salvation and libration from the vicious cycle of birth-death-rebirth. The Mela at Ujjain is known as ‘Simhastha Kumbh Mela’ in which the unique combination of divinity and purity is experienced when the crowd of ash-dubbed sages, priests and devotees gets fused together with the roaring of elephants and camels. People who witness the spiritual fest feel good fortune by their side and sense a positive aroma purifying their souls and thoughts. The major attraction of this festival is ‘Shahi Snan’ (royal bath) which takes place on predetermined dates varying every year. It is believed that those who take this royal bath wash their sins of all previous births. During the ‘Shahi Snan’ thousands of devotees assemble to get a glimpse of the procession of ascetics as they make their way to the ghats of river Shipra for a holy dip. On the main bathing dates, a colorful and magnificent procession of radiant saints sitting on chariots and elephants is witnessed by thousands of Kumbh visitors. These sadhus, belonging to various camps take a holy dip first and only then the ordinary pilgrims are allowed to take a bath.
Ujjain, the city of the famous king Vikramaditya and the great poet Kalidas, is located at the bank of the river Shipra in the western region of Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the most sacred places in India, known for its great cultural and spiritual importance. The city is enriched with several religious shrines such as Bade GaneshjiKa Mandir, Mahakaleshwar, VikramKirti Temple and many others. Ujjain, the erstwhile state capital of Malva region is now also one of the major cities of Madhya Pradesh, situated 190 km west of the state capital Bhopal. Ujjain is also known for its Simhastha Kumbha Parva (Kumbh Mela). Ujjain, the city of Mahakal, was earlier variously known as Avanti, Kushasthali, Kanashringa, Bhaumvati, Padmavati, Pratikalpa, Amaravati, Vishala, Avantika and Ujjayani. The only south-facing idol of Mahakaleshwar, regarded as the God of all the deities and demons alike, is situated at Ujjain.
The Adi Purana describes Ujjain as the most sacred city on the earth. The city has been a seat of learning where all disciplines of knowledge have flourished since time immemorial. Ujjain is well-connected by rail, air and road. It is on the Western Railway and is connected by direct train to most major Indian cities. Ujjain has an air strip. The nearest airport is Indore Airport. The road network is developed with other parts of Madhya Pradesh. Ujjain is connected to Indore through SH-27 and SH-18 Dewas-Badnawar passes through it.
History of Ujjain
The earliest references to the city, as Ujjayani, are from the time of the Buddha, when it was the capital of the Avanti Kingdom. Since the 4th century B.C. the city has marked the first meridian of longitude in Hindu geography. It is also reputed to have been the residence of Ashoka (who subsequently became the emperor), when he was the viceroy of the western provinces of the Mauryan empire. Ujjain is mentioned as the city of Ozene in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, an antique Greek description of sea ports and trade centers in the western Indian Ocean. Following the enthroning of the Gupta dynasty, the city soon became an important seat in the annals of that empire. Ujjain is considered to be the traditional capital of King Chandragupta II, also known as Vikramaditya. Ujjain was a major centre of mathematical and astronomical research. The famous mathematicians who worked there included: Brahmagupta, whose book Brahmasphutasiddhanta was responsible for spreading the use of zero, negative numbers and the positional number system to Arabia and Cambodia; Varahamihira, who was the first to discover many trigonometric identities; and Bhaskaracharya, or Bhaskara II, whose book Lilavati broke new ground in many areas of mathematics.
Ujjain was invaded by the forces of the Delhi Sultanate led by Iltutmish in 1235, suffering widespread destruction and systematic desecration of temples. Under the Mughal emperor Akbar it became the capital of Malwa. The Scindias later established themselves at Gwalior, and Ujjain remained part of Gwalior state until Indian Independence in 1947. Ujjain, and the neighboring princely states were made a part of the Central India Agency. After Indian independence, the Scindia ruler of Gwalior acceded to the Indian Union, and Ujjain became part of the Madhya Bharat state. In 1956 Madhya Bharat was merged into the Madhya Pradesh state.
Temples of Ujjain
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is situated below ground level (Garbhagriha) in the main temple. The idol of Mahakaleshwar is known to be dakshinamurti, facing the south. This is a unique feature upheld by tantric traditions to be found only in Mahakaleshwar among the 12 Jyotirlingas. Due to these considerations, worship of Shri Mahakal with vedic mantras proves fruitful for the devotee.
The Harsiddhi temple is one of the 52 Shakti Peeths situated all over India. According to legend, Shiva married Sati, the daughter of Daksha, a Prajapati who was proud of his position and disliked his ascetic son-in-law. In an effort to put his son-in-law in his place, Daksha organized a yagna and deliberately did not invite Shiva. Hearing of the grand yagna, Sati visited it by herself, ignoring her husband’s advice, and, furious with her father for thus deliberately ignoring her husband, cast herself into the flames lit for the yagna. Her act led to Shiva’s ganas going berserk with rage, and Shiva himself arriving at the scene and dancing the Tandava (the angry dance) with Sati’s body in his arms. While Shiva was later calmed down and amends made, it is believed that parts of Sati’s body fell on earth as He danced, and each of these (totaling 52 in number) are revered as Shakti Peeths.
Kal Bhairav Temple
The Shaivites worship eight Bhairavas and the Kal Bhairava is the most important. The Kapalika and the Aghora sects usually worship Kal Bhairava. The temple of Kal Bhairava is therefore very important to them. Liquor is offered to the lord as a part of the worship and the temple exhibits beautiful Malwa style of architecture. The paintings on the wall of the temple are however only visible in part.
Gopal temple at Ujjain is dedicated to Lord Krishna in blue form. It is also known as Dwarikadhish Temple. Lord Krishna is the lover of milkmaids, the celestial herdsman and the great incarnation of Preserver of the Universe-God Vishnu. Gopal temple was constructed by Bayajibai Shinde, the queen of Maharajah Daulat Rao Shinde, in the 19th century. The steeple structure in Marble proves the fantabulous example of the architecture of Maratha. There is an outstanding statue of God Krishna in silver form with the height of 2 feet. The idol of God Krishna is placed on a marble-inlaid altar with the silver-plated doors.
The International Society of Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), popularly known as the Hare Krishna Movement, was founded in 1966 by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. ISKCON is a worldwide association of devotees of Lord Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead; its members consist of 10,000 temple devotees and 250,000 congregational devotees. Sri Sri Radha Madan Mohan Temple, of the ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) or Hare Krishna Movement is newest on the map of Ujjain. Its beautiful idols and architect is a major attraction for tourists. A well maintained goshala is present just behind the temple. The ISKCON temple is situated 3 km from railway station, on Dewas road.
Chintamani Ganesh Temple
The temple is built across the Shipra on the Fatehabad railway line. The temple itself is believed to be of considerable antiquity. Riddhi and Siddhi, the consorts of Ganesha, are seated on either side of Ganesha. The artistically carved pillars in the assembly hall date back to the Paramara period. Worshippers throng to this temple because the deity here is traditionally known as Chintaharan Ganesh meaning “the assurer of freedom from worldly anxieties”.Ujjain is a city of famous for its ancient temples, astrology, traditional books, kumbh mela and eateries. Sweets, Namkeen, Mehndi, kumkum, idols, rudraksh, bhairavgarh print bed sheets and bhang are some of famous items of Ujjain. Ujjain is famous for its rich heritage and culture, mahakavi Kalidas belongs to Ujjain. The Kalidas Academy is famous for Kalidas Samaroh.
8th to 12th May 2016
Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, India
For Indian Participants
Standard Package: 18000 INR
Deluxe Package: 24000 INR
For International Participants
Deluxe Package: 500 USD
Maximum 8 participants
English, Hindi & Bengali
Meet Your Instructor
Apratim Saha is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Stock Photography, Getty Images and Stocksy United. He is a Brand Ambassador and mentor for Tamron and Datacolor. He has over 30 years of experience, from traditional film to digital photography. He is a commercial photographer specializing in people photography, portraiture, lifestyle & editorial clients. Besides commercial works, Apratim also shoots other subjects that stimulate his visual or emotional sensibilities.