Govt. starts planning for Haridwar Kumbh Mela

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Mission for Clean Ganga discusses funds needed for community toilets, urinals

  • The government has begun planning for the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, in January 2021. The gathering has a long history and draws large crowds from the world over, who come to take a ritualistic dip in the Ganga.
  • The Maha Kumbh Mela is organised once in 12 years, and the last time the event was held in 2010, about 10 million reportedly congregated in the city.
  • For organising the event, the State sought ₹85 crore from the NMCG for creating 16,075 community toilets (made of fibre and portable) and 20,000 community urinals. 

Maha Kumbh Mela

  • Kumbh Mela or Kumbha Mela (/ˌkʊmb ˈmeɪlə/) is a major pilgrimage and festival in Hinduism.
  • It is celebrated in a cycle of approximately 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites: the Allahabad (Ganges-Yamuna Sarasvati rivers confluence), Haridwar (Ganges), Nashik (Godavari) and Ujjain(Shipra).
  • The seekers believe that bathing in these rivers is a means to prāyaścitta (atonement, penance) for past mistakes, and that it cleanses them of their sins. 
  • The festival is traditionally credited to the 8th-century Hindu philosopher Adi Shankara, as a part of his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates along with Hindu monasteries across the Indian subcontinent.
  • The earliest mention of Prayag and the bathing pilgrimage is found in Rigveda Pariśiṣṭa (supplement to the Rigveda). 
  • It is also mentioned in the Pali canons of Buddhism, such as in section 1.7 of Majjhima Nikaya, wherein the Buddha states that bathing in Payaga (Skt: Prayaga) cannot wash away cruel and evil deeds, rather the virtuous one should be pure in heart and fair in action.
  • The Mahabharata mentions a bathing pilgrimage at Prayag as a means of prāyaścitta (atonement, penance) for past mistakes and guilt.
  • There are other references to Prayaga and river-side festivals in ancient Indian texts, including at the places where present-day Kumbh Melas are held, but the exact age of the Kumbh Mela is uncertain. 
  • The 7th-century Buddhist Chinese traveller Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) mentions king Harsha and his capital of Prayag, which he states to be a sacred Hindu city with hundreds of "deva temples" and two Buddhist institutions. He also mentions the Hindu bathing rituals at the junction of the rivers.
  • According to some scholars, this is the earliest surviving historical account of the Kumbh Mela, which took place in present-day Prayag in 644 CE. 
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