The Kumbh Mela is a mass gathering of Hindus from across India and around the world in a place where the Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers converge in Allahabad, India, called the sangam.
Astrology determines most aspects of the festival, including its exact date and length. Where the festival is held also depends on the position of Jupiter, the sun and earth.
This year, the Maha Kumbh Mela will last 55 days, starting on January 14th and ending on March 10th.
The festival has been held on the banks of the Ganges for thousands of years.
There are different kinds of kumbh: an ardh (or half) kumbh is held every six years at two set locations; a purna (full) kumbh is held at Allahabad every 12 years.
A Maha Kumbh Mela happens once every 144 years.
The Kumbh Mela is at its largest once every 12 years in Allahabad when it attracts tens of millions of people and its spiritual impact is believed to be strongest.
More than 100 million people are expected to attend the 2013 55-day festival.
In 2001, nearly 70 million flocked to the Ganges’ shores of the Ganges.for the Purna Kumbh Mela.
To accommodate the millions of pilgrims, more than 35,000 toilets have been installed, 14 temporary hospitals have been built, 243 doctors have been employed and 30,000 police have been hired for security and crowd control.
The origin of the Kumbh Mela religious festival comes from a legend describing a war between gods and demons over possession of the elixir of eternal life or the “nectar of immortality.”
It is believed that a few drops of this elixir fell to earth at four places during various these battles. These four places are where the rivers are believed to possess mystical powers.
Because the gods and demons battled back and forth for twelve days and twelve “days” for the gods are equivalent to 12 years for humans, the Kumbh Mela is celebrated once every 12 years in each of these four places
According to the legend the “kumbh” was the container that held “the immortal nectar” of the gods.