Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering in the world.
Two traditions are in circulation regarding the origin and timing of the festival: one that stems from ancient texts known as the Puranas, and the other that connects it with astrological considerations.
According to the Puranic epic, the gods and demons had churned the milky ocean at the beginning of time in order to gather various divine treasures including a jar containing a portion of immortality. As the jar emerged from the ocean the gods and demons began a terrific battle for its possession. During the battle, which according to some legends the gods won by trickery, four drops of the precious portion fell to earth.These places became the sites of the four Kumbh Mela festivals.
According to astrologers, the ‘Kumbh Fair’ takes place when the planet Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun enters Aries.
Bathing in the rivers during the Kumbh Mela is considered an endeavour of great merit, cleansing both body and spirit. The Allahabad and Haridwar festivals are routinely attended by five million or more pilgrims (13 million visited Allahabad in 1977 and over 18 million in 1989).
The pilgrimage occurs four times every twelve years, once at each of the four locations. Each twelve-year cycle includes the Maha (great) Kumbh Mela at Prayag, attended by millions of people, making it the largest pilgrimage gathering around the world.