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Symbolism of story behind kumbh mela-world largest gathering on earth
Posted By Sarin on Feb 10, 2013     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news
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Introduction
Festival has always been an integral part of Indians, who celebrate the traditional festivals following all the rituals with great pomposity and grandiosity. Among all of these festivals, the most followed festival of India is kumbh mela. This festival derives its name from the eternal pot of nectar called as Kumbh in Sanskrit which means " pitcher", "pot", ”jar" and mela means "festival. Kumbh mela is famous worldwide as the largest human gathering on earth.  
Ritual bath at the place where the nectar felled on earth would absolve all sins and help them attain nirvana (Salvation) is the prime reason behind the kumbh mela emerging as the biggest
congregation of faith.  It is this faith and belief about the almighty that the millions of devotees from all across the world are attracted to the sacred kumbh mela.  

Aerial night view of kumbh mela depciting millions of devotees

In my preceding article, I explained the story behind the celebration of kumbh mela. If you haven't read this article, then please check the below link:
Why Kumbh Mela is celebrated
In this article, I would explain the symbolism associated with the celebration of kumbh mela. Please read the story in the above article since understanding the symbolism would be impossible without understanding the story.
  
Symbolism of the story behind kumbh mela
This story symbolizes the spiritual Endeavour of human trying to attain immortality through withdrawal of desires, control of senses, and concentration of mind, practice of meditation, austerity and asceticism. This story symbolizes the significance of meditation in controlling your ego and senses, which usually overrules the mind in losing the track on the path of spirituality.  
  
Symbolism of deities approach to lord Vishnu and Vishnu advice to deities
Deities approaching lord Vishnu symbolizes the devotee desire to achieve salvation from this materialistic world. Vishnu advice of churning the ocean symbolizes that devotee must churn his mind to concentrate on a mantra and consciousness/meditation to achieve salvation.  

Symbolism behind churning of the ocean
Deities represent the positive and good thought in us while the demons represent bad and negative thought within us. Positive thoughts can be meditation, love, respect, devotion etc. Negative thoughts can be lust, envy, jealousy, greed etc. Participation of both deities and demons signifies the fact that there is always a tussle/war between good and bad thoughts in our mind.  

Tug of war between bad thoughts and good thoughts as depicted on suvarnabhumi airport, Thailand

Bad qualities would always try to overtake or override the good qualities but the one who is seeking spirituality/immortality concentrates on only the positive thoughts and sways away negative thoughts from their mind. It also symbolizes that many times, we need to integrate and harmonize the negative and positive energies for the attainment of our goal. For example, deceptively killing anyone is a negative thought but if our goal is to kill a morally bad person then such negative thoughts are not wrong and hence, such negative thought should be taken positively and should be executed without any hesitation. This is what lord Krishna preached in bhagavad gita where he explains his killings of various demons treacherously.
  
Ocean of milk is our mind or human consciousness. 
In bhagavad gita, lord Krishna allegorically compared mind to an ocean and emotions/thoughts to waves. Mind has various types of consciousness and it is the thoughts/emotions that let you go to the shore of that consciousness. If you are money conscious then your thoughts will take you to the shore (Techniques) of earning money. If you are god conscious then the thoughts/emotion changes accordingly to take you to the different shore where you become god conscious.
  
Mandhara Mountain stands for concentration.
 Mandhara is formed by combining two words: “Man” means “Mind” and “dhara" means “holding the mind in one line”. When you become god conscious then the materialistic pleasures like lust, sex, money etc may divert your emotion/thought to a different shore. So, in the mode of god consciousness, huge amount of concentration is needed to hold your mind from getting deviated to other materialistic pleasures.
  
This deviation of mind is explained very well in the below video.  

  
Kurma avatar symbolizes concentration
Mountain mandhara was upheld by a giant Tortoise (Lord Vishnu Avatar) which tells that concentration is not an easy task. You must control your senses to practice meditation and contemplation for which you have to face lot of physical & mental pain and stress initially.  The mind is not stable and wanders here and there. Just like the tortoise pulls his body inside his shell, you need to pull your materialistic desires back to your mind.
  
Thousand hooded serpent Vasuki symbolizes desire.
With the desire of attaining immortality, deities and demons faced sensual pain and suffering while churning their mind towards the goal of obtaining salvation. We have thousands of desires like a thousand hooded serpents but we should churn our mind only for the desire of Moksha (Salvation). You must hold all other desires and should manipulate those desires for the desire of salvation.
  
Halahal (Poison) symbolizes pain and suffering.  
This signifies the beginning of the spiritual process is very tough and hard. When the mind is subjected to negative and positive thoughts then fighting for the positive thought is of intense suffering and turmoil. Most of the people stop their meditation at this phase where they are unable to bear the turmoil and get disturbed or agitated. This problem is due to inner conflict of desires where one tries to pursue the spiritual path while other desires try to pursue the materialistic path. Without pain and suffering, seeking god or spirituality is not possible.  
  
Lord Shiva symbolizes the principle of austerity.  
His act of consuming poison symbolizes the fact that one has to be courageous, dedicated, disciplined, detached, compassionate and austere to consume the initial pain and suffering of the spiritual process. Instability of mind and restlessness can be addressed by developing the ascetic qualities of lord Shiva. It also symbolizes the fact that god help you in your process of attaining salvation. Lord Shiva act of holding poison symbolizes the yogi technique of breath control. Shiva is the controller of breath and so, is rightly called as ‘praneshwar’, or ‘prananath’ meaning Lord of Breath.

Praneshwar lord Shiva drinking Poision

In meditation, one needs to learn how to hold his breadth or adopt a suitable breathing pattern. Many spiritually advanced souls know the technique of holding breadth while they meditate. Also, Throat is the region where the thyroid hormone controls metabolism of the body. This means if you control everything in your throat, you can have complete control over the physiological process like sleep, thirsts, hunger, rest etc. Since lord Shiva consumed this poison in the month of shravana, fasting on shravana especially on Monday or offering ganga water to shivlingam is considered a pleasing deed.
  
  
Various objects from the ocean represent spiritual powers  
Various ratnas (objects) from the ocean stand for the spiritual or psychic powers (Ridhi-Siddhi) which one gains as he or she spiritually progress from one stage to another. For Example, flying horse represents the power of travelling through space which the yogis of our scriptures regularly do. Similarly, Kalpavriksha means the power of fulfilling other wish, Lakshmi represents attainment of good fortune and so on a different Siddhi(Power) for all other ratnas(Object). As you enlighten the various chakras within your body, you attain more and more spiritual or psychic powers just like the power of ancient sages mentioned in our sacred scriptures. Most of the yogis stop their yogic meditation after achieving few spiritual powers. But a true yogi should not be bewildered by the attainment of few powers. A true yogi should remain unaffected by the temptations and should keep meditating until he enlightens all chakras to achieve all spiritual powers.  

Enlightenment of various chakras within the body

These powers should be used judiciously for the welfare of the society and not for personal gain or pleasures. This is the reason why deities and demons, who participated in the churning process, distributed these powers equally as they did not wanted to go away from their original motive of seeking immortality.
  
Goddess Lakshmi represents the inner light or spiritual enlightenment
Lord Vishnu is free of illusions and senses. So, the act of Lakshmi marriage with Vishnu means the soul attaining the stage of having complete control over your senses, mind and body. This is the reason why marriage of goddess Lakshmi and lord Vishnu is celebrated as Diwali which means the victory of good over evil. Note that diwali is celebrated with lights which mean the darkness of the mind overcame by the inner light of the soul.
Act of cleaning homes on Lakshmi pooja(one day before diwali) means the removal of all evil tendencies from our hearts. Only when the evil thoughts are removed, laskhmi(Inner light) resides  in our house(Soul). Then only your life is full of happiness and prosperity.
  
Dhanvantari stands for good health
Pot of nectar in Dhanvantari hands signifies the fact that immortality can be attained by the body in a perfect state of health and mind. Physically or mentally ill person is not fit for God consciousness. Lord Dhanvatri is worshipped on dhanteras (two days before diwali). He has four hands with ayurvedic book, amrit kalash, herbal medicine and a shankh in each arm. It symbolizes the principle of medical treatment (‘book’ for Ayurvedic knowledge, methods of mediation and types of mantras, ‘shank’ for the purification of the mind, ‘herbal medicines’ for the physical body and amrit for salvation).

Mohini stands for Maya and pride:  
Your mind should be focused and not blinded seeing the achievement of your goal.  You should not be extremely proud or egoistic when you see the attainment of your goal very near. It is this pride and ego that made demons lose their right of achieving salvation even when they were near of attaining it. Ego and pride is one of the major hurdles of self-realization and attaining salvation.
  
I think there is no need to say that amrit (Nectar) symbolizes salvation.
  
Famous Quotes on kumbh mela
Below are some of the quotes of word famous personalities
“It is wonderful. The power of faith like that can make multitudes of the old and the weak and the young and the frail to enter without hesitation or complaint” - Mark Twain  (after his visit to kumbh mela in 1890)

Delegates from various countries at kumbh mela 2013

the water of the Ganges and the water of the Yamuna mingle, it appears as though diamonds and sapphires were woven together in a string; as though a flock of white swans had suddenly run into another flock of black swans; as though a garland of white lotus buds were interspersed with blue lotuses; as though streaks of lightning had merged into a sheet of darkness; as though a clear blue sky was spotted with wooly clouds of autumn”.- Kalidasa, World renowned Sanskrit poet and writer.

 “There is no religion or philosophy as sublime and elevating as Vedanta.” - Schopenhauer, German philosopher   

 “Nothing more impressive, picturesque, and pregnant with meaning and significance than Kumbha Mela can be witnessed in all of India.”  - Sir Sidney James Mark Low, historian and journalist

Devotees bathing at kumbh mela

Conclusion:
We always doubt our scriptures and think it as just useless mythological stories. One of the reasons behind this is our education system which has become totally westernized, thanks to the efforts of the British Empire with the aim of destroying Indian culture. We are not taught about the rich history, cultural, traditional and religious belief of our culture. Sadly, being a secular nation, our constitution also not recommends the study of religious scriptures in Indian schools and colleges. Totally unaware of the rich symbolism and great ancient past, most of the Indians today disregard their ancient beliefs without even researching or trying to understand those beliefs. Therefore it is my sincere request to all my visitors to research the world oldest culture (Hinduism) very well and if they have any doubts about the wrong practice followed in Hinduism then please get it clarified by renowned Indian seers /philosophers. I regularly post articles on such questions where the practice originally not a part of Hinduism or followed by a particular sect or community are wrongly projected as the part of Hinduism.


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