Kumbh Mela | The Simhastha Kumbh at Ujjain
The Simhastha Kumbh is a celebration like no other in India. It is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo’s quarter or the Simha constellation of the zodiac, which is why it is called Simhastha.
Legend goes that when there was the churning of the ocean, and Gods and demons competed for the divine nectar of immortality, drops of nectar fell on four places. One of them was Ujjain. Hence, the river Shipra became the enhancer of life and the Kumbh Mela is held to celebrate this event. Millions of devotees throng the ghats of Shipra for the holy dip.
Like almost everything in India, the Kumbh Mela too has an interesting legend regarding its origins. The most popular legend is that of the samudra manthan. Gods and demons competed fiercely in the chuming in search of the elixir of life. During this battle to capture the urn (kumbh) containing the nectar, drops of the precious liquid fell on four places – Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nashik and Ujjain – thus making the sites of the four melas. Kumbh Mela, held once every 12 years at these four places, attracts millions of devotees. In fact, the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad is said to be the largest human congregation in the world.
The Ujjain Kumbh is held when Jupiter is seen in the ascendant of the Leo or the simha constellation of the zodiac and is therefore known as the Simhastha. Ritual bathing in the holy waters of Shipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues to the full moon day of the next month, Baisakh.
Allahabad and Haridwar also host an Ardha Kumbh every six years. Allahabad holds the Maha Kumbh Mela after every 12 Purna Kumbh Melas, that is 144 years! People from many religious persuasions actively participate in the festivities. In fact, in 2004, the Shehar Kazi of Ujjain hosted 7.000 pilgrims for the entire duration of the Simhastha. Other local communities that actively participate in organizing the event are the Bohras and the Sikhas.
The MP Government estimates that a total of 20 million people visited Ujjain during the Simhastha at 2004. The event went off without any untoward incidents. Like other Kumbh Melas, the Simhastha is a spectacle to behold. Hermits of various sects assemble in Ujjain. Holy men mingle with ordinary people as they take their ritual dip in the holy waters of the Shipra.