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The mystifying world of astrology is known by its weird constellation movements and planetary intricacies. Astrologically speaking, one's sign of the zodiac predetermines one's fate and preordains one's destiny to the extent of controlling and steering the entire wheel of fortune. Making it more of a mystery of mysteries, the zodiacal merry-go-round keeps taking place even without letting one know. To avoid any misfortune, one needs to decode one's destiny by knowing about one's star and keep tracking the planetary movements and their influences.

In Hinduism, astrology is known as Jyotisha, which is not merely a distinctive field of study, but a central part of the Hindu religion. Comprising Shiksha (phonology), Chandas (prosody), Vyakarana (grammar and linguistic analysis), Nirukta (etymology), Kalpa (ritual instructions) and Jyotisha (astrology), the Vedanga, or 'the limbs of the Veda,' are six auxiliary disciplines connected with the study of the Vedas, which are the oldest scriptures of Hinduism.

Jyotisha, fully known as Vedanga Jyotishya, is one of the earliest Sanskrit texts written about astronomy and documented by ancient sages within the Vedas. As per the Jyotisha Shastra (rules), when Brihaspati (Jupiter) enters Vrishabha (Taurus) and the Surya (Sun) and Chandra (Moon) are in Makra (Capricorn), it is the right time for Hindu devotees to partake in a pilgrimage to Prayagraj, former Allahabad, and gather at the holy ground of Triveni Sangam, a confluence of the sacred rivers of the Ganges, the Yamuna and the Saraswati, to take a holy bath to cleanse their sins.

Referred to as a path to purification as well as a road to nirvana, Kumbha Parva Chakra, commonly known as Maha Kumbh Mela, is a great religious bathing fair. The largest congregation of pilgrims on Earth, the Kumbh Mela is on the UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Celebrated four times in every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela (the festival of the sacred pitcher) is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith as well as the world's largest gathering of people, which is held solely for a religious purpose. On an average, some 130 to 140 million people take part in the festival over a period of seven weeks.

As described in the Puranas, the ancient Vedic scriptures, the Devtas (the demigods) and Asuras (demons) made separate attempts to extract the Amrita, the celestial nectar of immortality, by churning the Kshir Sagar, the primordial ocean of milk.

Despite their continued efforts spanning thousands of years, both were unable to accomplish the task alone and thus decided to extract the Amrita in a collective effort. Once it was finally extracted, Devtas and Asuras fought with each other to get hold of the Amrita nectar. Doing so, the Devtas finally stole the Kumbha, the divine pitcher carrying the Amrita and a 12-day chase, equivalent to 12 human years, ensued across the Brahmanda (universe).

During the chase, Lord Vishnu, one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon, spilled a few drops of Amrita at four places, namely Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayagraj. These places, as a result, became the present-day sites of the Kumbh Mela and millions of people gather to bathe in the sacred river water in each of these four places over a 12 year cycle.

These festivals are held periodically as per the Hindu calendar on a rotational basis at Ujjain, Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak), Haridwar and Prayagraj (former Allahabad). As per Hindu tradition, a total of four bathing fairs are recognized as the Kumbh Melas: the Ujjain Simhastha, the Nashik-Trimbakeshwar Simhastha, Haridwar Kumbh Mela and the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, also referred to as the Maha Kumbh Mela or the main Kumbh festival, because it is held at the confluence of the holy Ganges, the Yamuna and the Sarasvati rivers.

Being held this year by the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government under the slogan 'Chalo Kumbh Chalo, Chalo Kumbh Chalo,' the festival is taking place at Prayagraj from January 15 to March 4.

From Makar Sankaranti (first day of the Kumbh festival) to Maha Shivratri (last day of the festival), taking a dip in the holy rivers on each day of Kumbh is considered a holy bath. However, as per Hindu beliefs, there are other holy bathing dates deemed as auspicious for cleansing a person of all his sins.

The Akhara Parishad, an apex regulatory body of the Kumbh Mela, 2019, has announced six auspicious bathing days that have further been classified into three categories: Shahi Snan (royal bathing), important bathing and normal bathing.

Other than the Makar Sankaranti, the Mauni Amawasya (February 4) and the Basant Panchami (February 10) are considered royal bathing dates, because on these days Naga Sadhus mingle with common devotees, take a holy dip in Triveni Sangam and stage mock Akharas to perform Hindu martial arts, displaying such ancient weapons as 'trishul' (trident), 'pharsa' (battleaxe), 'chimta' (a pair of tongs), swords, etc. The Paush Purnima (January 21), Maghi Purnima (February 19) and the Maha Shivratri (March 4) are considered as important bathing dates during the festival.

The rare presence of Naga Sadhus in the festival brings out the political side of the Kumbh Mela as the weapons they exhibit in the festival were used by Hindu warriors some 2,000 years ago to safeguard Hinduism and to protect India from foreign invaders.
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Publication:South Asia
Date:Mar 14, 2019
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