Monday, July 6, 2015

Simhastha Kumbh : The Nectar Event at Nashik

Intro: Nashik is going to organise one of the most sacred Hindu Festival, the Simhastha Kumbh 2015. Organiser  presents a brief sketch of concrete plans and preparations which have been done by the government.

Simhastha Kumbh Mela, which is identified as biggest Hindu religious event, takes place in Nashik & Tryambakeshwar in northern Maharashtra after every 12 years. The city has geared up to welcome the lakhs of devotees expected to visit the ancient city for holy bath in the river Godavari on the occasion of Kumbh, which will start with the Dhwajarohanam (Kumbh Flag Hoisting) on July 14, 2015 at 06.16 AM at Ram Teerth Nashik & Kushavart Teerth at Tryambak. Central Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Central Minister of Water Resources and in-charge of Ganga Cleaning project Uma Bharati, Dr Harshvardhan, Science and Technology Minister and Central Minister of state for Environment Prakash Javadekar are attending the Dhwajarohanam ceremony at Tryambak, according to Tryambak Purohit Sangh’s Herambh Shikhare. He also added that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi might visit during the second Parvani of Shahi Snan (Grand Holy Bath) which falls on September 13, 2015.

The administration is ready with micro planning of the event. Digital technology is being used to monitor the crowd movements and guide the disciples about the routes and do’s and don’ts. Awareness is being created through various means about environment and health issues. According to District Superintendant of Police (Nashik Rural) S Jagannathan, security will not be an issue this time. Nashik’s young and dynamic District Collector and Magistrate Pradip Chand Kushwah, seems prepared to take on any challenge during the mega event. Kumbh Minister Girish Mahajan, who is also Nashik’s guardian minister, looks satisfied with the preparations. Various Akhadas of Sadhus (Sages) and Purohit Sanghs who actually host the religious functions during Kumbh  are also geared up for the preparations. Still Nashik Municipal Corporation seems to be lagging behind in clean up tasks as the garbage dumps can still be seen across the city and around Ram Teerth, which is the centre of the Kumbh events. But the district administration and Municipal Corporation are confident that they will be able to project a clean and green face of the ancient city before the Kumbh begins.
This is the only Kumbh which is held at the centre of a city. As the event taking place during monsoon the challenges before the administration are bigger. This time, about one crore eighty lakh people are expected to visit, according to the estimates put up by the Government officials. The maximum crowd will be on the Parvani dates, which are spiritually and religiously significant dates marked in Panchang (Indian traditional calendar system). The speciality of these Kumbh Melas is, nobody invites the public. The people from all over the country visit the Kumbh melas spontaneously to take the holy bath and to complete the religious rituals. As of now due to increasing religious awareness and easy availability of transportation, the number of pilgrims is increasing every Kumbh. 
Maratha Empire Legacy
Although the Kumbh Mela is hosted by Purohit Sanghs and Sadhu Akhadas, the government provides basic amenities for the visiting Sadhus and pilgrims. When searched, it was found that the tradition of providing large scale basic amenities to Kumbh Pilgrims by Government was started by Peshawas, the CEOs of Maratha Empire. The Britishers followed it and the legacy is maintained by the successive governments after Independence. Maratha Empire was the first kingdom to provide the large scale basic amenities for the Hindu pilgrimages like Kumbh Mela in recent history.
Now the Government creates a Sadhu Gram, for the visiting Sadhus. Sadhus and their disciples live in their own tents. Government only provides them basic amenities like temporary toilets (but with concrete septic tanks) and bathrooms, water pipeline, electricity connection (billed to each akhada), gas cylinders (purchased by each Akhadas), roads and street lights in Sadhu Gram area.
Basically Sadhu Gram is a levelled out ground with all the above mentioned basic amenities. The Akhada Parishad distributes the plots to each Khalsas according to their need. Each of the Khalsas then erects its own tent on the plot.

This time Sadhu Gram has been erected on 340 acres of land in Tapovan area. 60 acres was donated by Chatuhsampradaya Akhada to Nashik Municipal Corporation during last Kumbh for permanent use for Kumbh Mela amenities.  Remaining 280 acres was leased out by the district administration from various farmers and private land owners in the area.

Religious Significance
Nashik’s Kumbh is celebrated when the Guru i.e. Jupiter along with Sun and Moon enter the Simha Rashi i.e. sign of Leo. As Jupiter takes one year to cross one rashi, it takes 12 years to complete the cycle of 12 rashis / signs. Hence Kumbh Melas, which are related to movements of Jupiter, Sun and Moon, are repeated every 12th year. According to Skand Puran, four Kumbh Melas take place on planet Earth out of 12 Kumbhs - Haridwar (when Jupiter is in Aquarious and Sun is in Aries), Prayag (when Jupiter is in Aries and Sun is in Capricorn), Ujjain (when Jupiter is in Leo and Sun is in Aries) and Nashik (When both Jupiter and Sun are in Leo). Remaining 8 Kumbhs take place in other Loks (worlds). Haridwar, Ujjain and Prayag, all three places have Kumbh Melas of one month duration only. But Nashik’s Simhastha Kumbh is observed for a full year.

There is a story behind the tradition of Kumbh. According to Skanda Puran, when there was Samudra Manthan for Amrit and Amrit actually came out as the result of the Manthan, a war broke out between Devas (Gods) and Danavas or Asuras (demons) for it. Meanwhile, the Garuda took the Amrita Kumbh and ran away to keep it safe from Asuras. Asuars followed him, and while fighting, some drops of Amrit got sprinkled over places. And Brihaspati (represented by Jupiter) and Soorya (Sun) protected it from destruction. Since then on, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated on those particular places where the Amrit drops sprinkled (Haridwar, Prayag Ujjain and Nashik) when the celestial bodies of Jupiter and Sun revisit their position at the time of protection. There is a legend that every God visits the said places during the occasion and hence the people pay visit to take holy bath during the time.

Satish Shukla, president of Nashik’s Ganga Godavari Panchkothi Purohit Sangh and Heramb Shikhare, son of Tryambak Purohit Sangh President Jayant Shikhare talked to Organiser about the importance of the Kumbh in Nashik and Tryambak. There is tradition behind all the rituals followed during the Kumbh which have support of various Puranas, mainly Skand Purana.
Sadhus and Sanyasis (Monks) from all over the world visit Nashik and Tryambak for Kumbh. There are 13 Akhadas of Sadhus (super bodies under which the monasteries are organised). Ten are Shaivaites (Disciples of Shiva) based in Tryambak and 3 are Vaishnavites (Disciples of Vishnu) based in Nashik. There are more than 700 Khalsas (groups of Sadhus) which have affiliation under 3 Vaishnavite Akhadas. There are 70 to 100 Sadhus in one Khalsa.  Shaivaite Akhadas also follow the same system of affiliation, but they manage to keep total number of groups under control by increasing number of Sadhus in a group.

Why Nashik and Tryambak Kumbh separated?
According to the accounts of history, the Kumbh was used to be organised at Nashik originally. But sometime during Muslim invasions, the influence of changing political scenario created some elements in the Sadhus that strived for leadership of Sadhu Sampradaya. That led to a fight between Shaivaite Sadhus and Vaishnavaite Sadhus over leadership during the holy bath (called Shahi Snan) and procession (called Shahi) in the Kumbh Mela.

Sometime 180 to 190 years ago, the matter was taken to the court of Peshawas at Pune, who enjoyed considerable clout over the society and were honoured among the religious and spiritual leaders, as CEOs of Hindu Maratha Empire. After consulting many learned and wise men, Peshawas ordered that the Shaivaites should observe the Kumbh at Tryambak, which is a Jyotirling place and seat of Shaiva sampradaya for centuries, and Vaishnavites should observe the Kumbh at Nashik’s Ram Teerth. The Sadhus accepted the decision and since then, both Nashik and Tryambak which are situated 40 kms apart, host the Kumbh Mela celebrations. But the time slots for holy bath are kept reserved for each other at both the places. This year, at the behest of some spiritual leaders, the Sadhus from both the Sampradayas will visit both the places for Holy bath.
There are records that the British regime had banned the celebrations for few years fearing the Naga Sadhus. But the leaders of the society followed up the British regime to vacate the ban and the Britishers, under heavy public pressure, vacated the ban around 1922.  

Naga Sadhus
History tells us that the Naga Sadhu Sampraday was created for the protection of Hindu society from invaders. The system tried to protect Hindus from Muslim invasions. That’s why they are armed. They also used to be experts in Indian martial arts. The Nagas live the total yogic life with keeping requirements at minimum and keep themselves away from society in day today life. They used to train the royal forces and even actually fought in some crucial battles to protect Hinduism. They are basically Shaivaites. The Britishers, fearing their war skills, had unarmed them and had also banned them from entering cities and Kumbh sites for some time.

The Akhadas
The Akhadas are a complete self sufficient system which supports the Sadhus and Sanyasis and keep them organised. They have their monasteries and at some places even have temples. All the expenditure required for maintenance is raised though donations from disciples. The Akhil Bharatiya Shad-Darshan Akhada Parishad is the apex body of all the akhadas in the country. They have a Pancha Mandal system (collective leadership of five sages) for administrative purposes.   
Rajesh Prabhu Salgaonkar
(July 12, 2015, Page 38-39)


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