The Significance of Kumbha Sankranti•
Posted on January 16 2023
Kumbha Sankranti marks the day of the transition of the sun from Makar rasi (Capricorn sign) to Kumbha rasi (Aquarius sign). This day occurs on the eleventh solar month in the Hindu calendar. This is typically towards the mid of February every year, around the 12th or 13th of the month. The actual transition time is very less and varies every year based on how the sun is positioned that year.
The sixteen ghatis before the actual transition of the sun or exact Sankranti moment is considered to be very auspicious. It is considered to be beneficial to engage in charity like donating clothes and offering dishes made using pumpkin to brahmins. Indulging in charity related acts on this day is said to be very significant. Hindus believe that Lord Vishnu showers special grace on those who offer food to the poor and needy on this day. Feeding cows and worshipping them during this period is also very auspicious. These acts help the doers to be bestowed with spiritual and material gains.
The well-known Kumbha Mela religious festival is celebrated on Kumbha Sankranti day once every twelve years. This mela is also considered to be the largest religious celebration in the world. A Maha Kumbha Mela celebration takes place in Prayag once in 144 years.
Bathing in the Ganges
Devotees wake up early on Kumbha Sankranti day and throng the banks of the river Ganges on this day to take a dip in its holy waters. They usually bathe at the Triveni or converging point of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the former river Saraswati. This bath done on Kumbha Sankranti is referred to as sankramana snana.
Worshippers are of the belief that bathing in the holy river helps them to wash and get rid of their sins and evil actions. A bath in the river on Kumbha Sankranti also helps devotees reach one step closer to salvation and have their desires fulfilled. It also helps them be relieved from the rebirth or birth and death cycle. This bath refreshes their soul and mind filling them with tranquillity and peace while relieving them of hardships in their lives.
After the bath, devotees engage in early morning prayers chanting mantras in honour of Maa Ganga with a clean heart and a visit to the temple located on the river banks to seek the blessings of the goddess and be bestowed with peace and happiness. Some devotees even opt for meditation on the river banks.
Benefits of Kumbha Sankranti Vrat
Devotees undertake a vrat or fast and worship Sun God for prosperity, long life, happiness and success in their endeavours. The fast is typically observed from sunrise to sunset without food and drink or take only milk and fruits. Worshippers also offer sweet yellow rice along with flowers and water as prasad to the deity at the time of sunrise. This is followed by performing the Surya Namaskar and reciting the Aditya Hrudaya stotra.
Story Behind Kumbha Sankranti
The term kumbha refers to the pot of nectar that emerged when the ocean of milk was churned. Once the gods and asuras had a battle with the asuras emerging victorious and gaining control over the universe. The gods approached Lord Vishnu for help who told them to form an alliance with the asuras and churn the ocean of milk for the pot of nectar on the pretext that they would share the nectar among themselves. However, Vishnu assured them that He would make sure that only the devas would get the nectar. The gods and demons joined hands and began churning the ocean. Several things emerged from the ocean and the kumbha containing the nectar of immortality was the last to appear.
As soon as this pot emerged, a battle arose between them as to who should have the nectar. The battle went on day and night for twelve days. At the end of the twelfth day, Lord Vishnu appeared before them in the form of the bewitching damsel Mohini and took off with the pot. In the process, a few drops of the nectar fell in Haridwar, Nashik, Ujjain and Allahabad. The Kumbha Mela fair is celebrated with pomp and gaiety in these places to this day with millions of people visiting these places on the occasion of Kumbha Sankranti. Kumbha Mela is celebrated in one of these places every year in rotation.
Kumbha Mela celebrations have taken place from as early as 629CE. The Bhagavad Puran also makes references to the Kumbha Sankranti that falls during this mela period. Today, Kumbha Sankranti is widely celebrated all over the country. However, the celebrations with utmost fervour among people in East India. The mela witnesses the gathering of a large number of pilgrims from across the country.
The people of West Bengal and Assam consider this day to be the beginning of the Falgun month while Keralites refer to this festival as Masi masam according to their Malayalam calendar with the advent of Kumbha masam.
Written by - Deepthi K