The Kumbh Mela is listed as the largest peaceful gathering in the world. It has been listed by the UNESCO in their Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Kumbh Mela is held in four places. Haridwar on the banks of river Ganga, Prayag on the banks of the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, Nashik on the banks of river Godavari and Ujjain, on the banks of river Shipra.

The Kumbh Mela is a congregation of Hindu devotees on the river bank to take a holy dip once in 12 years at any given place.

The Artha Kumbha Mela is held every 6 years at Haridwar and Prayag.

The Maha Kumbh Mela is held at a place after 12 Kumbh Melas. That means a MahaKumbh is held every 144 years at a place.

The 12 year cycle is based on the movement of the planet Jupiter. As you all know, there are 12 zodiac signs. Jupiter appears to stay in a zodiac sign for a period of 1 year. It will return to that sign again in 12 years time. That is the reason behind the 12 year period of the Kumbh.

The specialty of the Kumbh Mela are the sadhus who come from all over the country. They belong to different akharas or groups. They come and put up tents on the river bank and stay for many days. They are ascetics who have renounced the world. Some of these sadhus are Naga sadhus who do not wear any clothing even in severe winter. Most of these sadhus apply ash to their bodies. They are given a special place in the Kumbh. The sadhus are allowed to take the holy dip before anyone else. No one else is allowed entry to the ghats during those times. The sadhus come in processions that are grand in every manner. Some on elephants and some in palaquins. They come in groups chanting. People line up the streets to see them. The foreign media covers this event with great enthusiasm.

India is a country blessed with a number of rivers. Rivers are revered as holy and life-giving mother. In some sense, the Kumbh is a celebration of the river. It is our way of thanksgiving to the life sustaining river.

12 main rivers of India are associated with the 12 zodiac signs. So each year, there is a celebration of the river festival. These are called Pushkar. The Pushkar festival is marked by performing rituals for ancestors, and bathing in the river. Though Jupiter stays in the zodiac for a whole year, the first 12 days of entry and last 12 days before leaving are considered auspicious. Large number of people congregate at the river banks to take a holy dip.

Upcoming river festivals:

River Zodiac sign Next Pushkar
Kaveri Tula (Libra) Sep 2017 (just concluded)
Bhima Vrishchika (Scorpio) Sep 2018
Brahmaputra and Tapti Dhanus (Sagittarius) Mar 2019
Tungabhadra Makara (Capricorn) Mar 2020
Sindhu Kumbha (Aquarius) Apr 2021
Pranhitha Meena (Pisces) Apr 2022
Ganga Mesha (Aries) Apr 2023
Narmada Vrushabha (Taurus) May 2024
Saraswati Mithuna (Gemini) May 2025
Yamuna Karka (Yamuna) Jun 2026
Godavari Simha (Leo) Jun 2027
Krishna Kanya (Virgo) Aug 2028


Our forefathers recognised the importance of rivers in our life and must have created these festivals as a reminder to take care of our rivers. But sadly, nowadays these have just become rituals and no one really cares about the river.

What is the use of polluting and abusing the river all the time and worshipping it once in 12 years?

How many more lessons do we need? One of the reasons for the deluge of Chennai few years back is because lake beds were encroached with buildings. Same is the case with Bangalore and many other cities.

Just praying to a main river once in 12 years is not a ticket to abuse precious water for the rest of our lives. Our children will need water. The rivers which have sustained generations of Indians are drying up now.

Wake up! There is no life without water! India is abundantly blessed with rivers, rivulets and streams. They must be preserved.

The rivers are the life line of the agrarian society of India. Taking care of our rivers must be our utmost priority.