Kumbh Mela – The Greatest Gathering

Sadhguru explains the science and significance of one of the Kumbh Mela, the world’s largest spiritual gathering and describes his own Kumbha Mela experience at Prayag.

महाकुम्भ मेला: क्या है इसका विज्ञान?
கும்பமேளா – ஏன் இவ்வளவு சிறப்பு?

...Nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. - Mark Twain

Sadhguru: Indian culture is the most complex and colorful culture on the planet. You will see, the way people look, their language and food, their way of dressing, music and dance, everything is different every 50 or 100 kilometers in the country. One place where you can really see the complexity of this culture is the Kumbha Mela.

During the Maha Kumbha Mela in 2001, 60 million people gathered in Allahabad. I have never had a longing to go to such places, but there was so much talk happening, so, to see a grand event of unimaginable scale, I decided to drive there from Coimbatore.

It is one the most incredible sights in the world. I went there at around 2AM and all kinds of people from different parts of the country were there sitting around. They had no place to sleep, so they had little fires going with their own song and dance, culture and language. The worst and the best of humanity landed up there – every kind of crook who wants to try his hand, but also many yogis of great accomplishment. People have been meeting like this for thousands of years. It is a tradition and a culture that you cannot kill, and it has a certain social relevance. But it also has a certain spiritual strength.

The earth and moon journey in cycles. Everybody is subject to these cycles, but these cycles can remain cycles of bondage, or they can become a means of transcendence – from one cycle of life to another. One who is longing for liberation is constantly seeking how to become free from the cycles one has created. There are various kinds of cycles, the longest being 144 years; once in 144 years, distinctive occurrences happen in the solar system for which we have a Maha Kumbha Mela, which last happened in 2001.

An aerial shot of the gathering of people during the Maha Kumbh Mela in 2001.

The Kumbha Melas are held at specific spots in the country around which a whole energy system was created. Because the planet is spinning, it creates a centrifugal force. From 0 to 33 degrees latitude, this force is largely working in a vertical manner in your system, and particularly at 11 degrees, the energies are shooting straight up. So, the ancients calculated and marked out points on the planet where there is a supportive influence on people. Many points happen to be confluences of rivers and there is a benefit to bathing in those areas. If one is at that spot on a particular day, rare possibilities become available, so people moved there to make use of these situations. Many of these people are peasants and illiterate people who travel long distances with meagre resources, just wanting to be there, longing for mukti. Nowhere else on the planet does an entire population long for liberation with such intensity.


Most Indians are unaware of the depth of mysticism and spiritual process that has happened and continues to happen in India. This land has always been known as the spiritual capital of the world, simply because no other culture has looked at the inner sciences with as much understanding. Here, liberation or mukti has been the highest goal, and even God is considered just a stepping stone towards that.

Unfortunately, the spiritual culture we see today has in many ways been broken by invasions, and distorted by long spells of poverty. Still, the basic ethos of the spiritual process is not destroyed, nor can it be destroyed. It is time that we reap the benefits of this profound tradition in its full glory.

Editor’s Note: Have you ever been to a Kumbha Mela? Let us know your experience in the comments section below.

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5 years 3 months ago

when there is Kumbha Mela..dey announce most auspicious dates with times..dey called Shahi Snan....I think the best day comes at Mauni Amavasya at sun rise time...

7 years 6 months ago

I was in allahabad in 2001 but ran away to delhi as the crowdwas too much missed opportunity.

4 years 3 months ago

you gunna be surprised, there going to be all kinda people

7 years 6 months ago

I am Proud to be here in allahabad. I was working here since 2006. During that time the artha kumbhamela was going on here. Again this year I got an opportunity to be here in this maha kumbhamela. Anybody have idea about sathguru's visit for this Kumbhmela..

7 years 6 months ago

i have looked up Indians as very mystic and spiritual people. oh how i would love to travel to India and see Kumbha Mela for myself.

7 years 6 months ago

hi...the article mentions the maha kumbha mela (once every 144 years) occurred in 2001. However, I've been reading that the current onw (2013) is the mahakumbha...any clarifications??

7 years 5 months ago

Those who wish to call Allahabad Pryag are most welcome. Though Allahabad represent history. But Pryag represent the spirituality I too prefer to call it Pryag but understand its difficult at district level and political level to change it name back to original.

7 years 6 months ago

I visited kumbha mela in 1989 when I was 28 years old and stayed with my 69 year old mother from thanjavur in Tamilnadu. We stayed there for 4 days and enjoyed the fervor which i still recollect. the state government make all provisions and security at the time. it is a life event for a soul to visit ALLAHABAD during KUMBHAMELA.. I am yet to visit the Ganga sagar at west bengal where a huge people gathers on Makara sankranthi. if any body knows this please mail the details.

7 years 5 months ago

The Kumbh happening intrigued me....i wondered why so many people congregated here.I wanted to experience this place and so i did on Mauni Amavasya.It was an overwhelming experience...to see hoards of people just walking and walking at any given time towards Mother Ganga...everyone was walking peacefully,calmly,steadfast in their resolution ...no push ..no rush...no aggression....people of all ages...all these simple folk came for the Great Snan ..to wash their sins and attain mukti....only in this country can we see this fervour....i was so nervous to bathe in the Ganga ...i was standing in the waters and the excitement ,elation of the people was so infectious that after coming out of the waters i felt so refreshed and happy...for no reason...
I took photographs of the river and this is how i felt.

mesmerised i watch
standing on the bridge,
unable to take my eyes away
soaking in this divine sight
the glistening waters of mother Ganga
beckon me once again !

7 years 6 months ago

What happens every 12 years is the Poorn Kumbh. Maha Kumbh is only
once in 144 years. Of course, the media gladly blurs the line and
applies the most headline-grabbing title for the sake of publicity, thus
causing confusion. :)

7 years 6 months ago

I just wish the place is addressed as Prayaga and not as Allahabad.

7 years 3 months ago

i had been there for Purna kumbamela held at allahabad.....Unbeleivable .........one cant imagine that much of crowd had been gathered for holy dip at triveni sangamam....you can find peoples staying there for more that 45 to 60 days....No words to say while being there.....one have to learn more about human science then only we will become a literate else all others are illiterates............

7 years 6 months ago

A fortunate person to have witnessed the 2001 kumbh mela. Still remember the way my parents took me there [ i was in my 12th standard]. All my parents knew was its once in 144 years, so we all booked and went in train. Words cant explain the crowd there and we took the dip in that shivering cold in the night :). Sadhguru happened to me few years after that and now looking back, i am wondering if its all connected !! Shiva Shambo!!

7 years 1 month ago

I was lucky to go first time in 2001/ second time 2006/ for shahi snaan and thanks to my guru i was even more lucky to be in the procession with the naga babas of juna akhara..the energy and vibrance of that place and its babas was intense and amazing. Just from experiencing it i learnt a lot about the naked babas and how stupid I really am. (a note of caution the water gives you brain freeze hahaha and i was get chance live there one month,thanx my guruji shri shri shri 1008 Mahamandleswar swami Alakhgiriji majaraj

7 years 6 months ago

I was lucky to go in 2010, for shahi snaan and thanks to my guru i was even more lucky to be in the procession with the naga babas of juna akhara..the energy and vibrance of that place and its babas was intense and amazing. Just from experiencing it i learnt a lot about the naked babas and how stupid I really am. (a note of caution the water gives you brain freeze hahaha)

6 years 3 months ago

Very curious to know why only men take part of the KM in Prayag.

7 years 6 months ago

Its a spiritual place and spirituality transcends religion in so many ways.

5 years 3 months ago

got to do some KARMA cleanup...ma be visit nasik as a first timer this year

7 years 6 months ago

When is the best time to visit this khymbh

5 years 3 months ago

Who told you this...Women, Men, Children, Old..all sections of society take holy deep in Maha Kumbha...

7 years 6 months ago

@ satya
There is a very deep science in pronunciations and sounds. Spirituality transcends religion agreed, but science is science. Saying 'Hail St. John' will never have the same effect in your system as saying 'Aum Namah Shivaya'. Recent studies on Gayatri mantra proves it. I am not being a religious fanatic when I say that the city should be called as Prayaga. Prayaga means a place of supreme sacrifice.