“Gulon mein rang bhare, baad-e naubar chale, Chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka karobar chale”
A mela, in Sanskrit means, quite simply, “to meet,” or “a gathering,”or “fair.” A mela is essentially any gathering, whether it is religious, commercial, sports-oriented, and shows a wide-spread social cohesiveness. A mela is a means to promote and preserve the cultural heritage of a community, and serves as a carrier of a distillation of all that is good in that culture. In doing so, melas can erase ingroup biases, and show the positive qualities of the outgroup, bringing the various communities of the subcontinent together.
Today, a mela can also mean a exhibition, with stalls, games, food, entertainment, or preserving a particular tradition. A mela can have various faces – be it the Kumbh Mela, that attracts 69 million people to the banks of the Ganga in Allahabad, the Sonepur Cattle Fair, that presents lines of cattl and elephants, the quirky Pushkar Fair, with it’s moustache and “matki-phod” competitions, the Hemis Gompa Fair in Ladakh. Yet, the essential spirit of community bonding, and finding commonalities in our differences remains the same.
Mark Twain wrote about the Kumbh Mela, “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.”
Kumbha Mela is a mass mobilized outpouring of faith in which Hindu pilgrims gather to bathe in a sacred river. It is considered to be the largest peaceful gathering in the world. It is held every third year at one of the four places – Haridwar, Allahabad(Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain. The name Kumbh Mela comes from Hindi, and in the original Sanskrit and other Indian languages it is more often known as Kumbha Mela. Kumbha means a pitcher and Mela means fair in Sanskrit.
The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places: it is believed in Hinduism that drops of nectar fell from the kumbha carried by gods after the sea was churned.Bathing in these rivers is thought to cleanse a person of all sins.The festival is billed as the “world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims”.There is no precise method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims, and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary. Approximately 80 million people were estimated to attend on 14 February 2013.