The mythology behind Kumbh
Kumbh is one of the most sacred pilgrimages for Hindus. According to information shared on a website on Kumbh hosted by Uttarakhand Haridwar Kumbh Mela Pradhikaran, the founding myth of the Kumbh Mela points to the puranas (compilation of ancient legends). It recounts how gods and demons fought over the sacred kumbh (pitcher) of amrit (nectar of immortality) called the Ratna of Samudra Manthan. It is widely believed that Lord Vishnu (disguised as the enchantress ‘Mohini’) whisked the kumbh out of the grasp of the covetous demons who had tried to claim it. As he took it towards heaven, a few drops of the precious nectar fell on four sacred sites, which we now know as Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayag. The flight and the following pursuit is said to have lasted 12 divine days, which is equivalent to twelve human years, and therefore, the mela is celebrated every 12 years, staggered at each of the four sacred sites in this cycle. The corresponding rivers are believed to have turned into amrit at the cosmic moment, giving pilgrims the chance to bathe in the essence of purity, auspiciousness, and immortality.
The importance of Kumbh 2021 for Uttarakhand
Religious tourism is the backbone of Uttarakhand’s economy. The lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic has given the hill state’s tourism sector a major jolt.
The annual pilgrimage of Char Dham Yatra resumed late and with restrictions. The annual Kanwar Yatra could not happen due to the pandemic. And now, the Kumbh Mela 2021, which is to be held from January 1 to April 30, is a hope of revival for the people associated with the sector, says Seema Nautiyal, Hardiwar District Tourism Officer.
There are over 800 hotels and 350 ashrams in Haridwar where preparations are underway to accomodate an average 1.25 lakh pilgrims on any given day during the Kumbh. The tourism department was earlier expecting around 10 crore pilgrims, but restrictions imposed to ensure social distancing will curtail the figure. As 156-sq km ‘mela area’ has been demarcated in three districts of Haridwar, Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal for people associated with hospitality, tourism and civil supply in these districts, and adjoining areas of western Uttar Pradesh, to get business during the religious congregation.