Haridwar is currently hosting the Purna Kumbha Mela from Makar Sankranti (14th January 2010) to Shakh Purnima Snan (28th April 2010), attracting millions of pilgrims from almost all walks of life, and from around the world. According to Indian astrology, it is celebrated when the planet of Brahaspati (Jupiter) moves into the zodiac sign of Aquarius (Kumbha).
The Purna Kumbh Mela takes place at four locations of India: Prayag (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttarakhand), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), and Nashik (Maharashtra) after every twelve years, while the Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Prayag. The Maha Kumbh Mela ('Great' Kumbh Mela) that comes after 12 'Purna Kumbh Melas' (every 144 years) is held at Prayag (Allahabad). Each location’s celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon and Jupiter.
Kumbh Mela is attended by millions of people on a single day (according to reports, the Maha Kumbh Mela of 2001 was attended by about 60 million people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world). The major event of the festival is a ritual bath. Other activities include religious discourses, devotional songs, religious assemblies, etc. Many thousands of holy men and women (monks, saints and sadhus) attend the religious fair. The sadhus are seen clad in saffron cloths as per the requirements of ancient traditions. Some saints called Naga Sanyasis may be seen without any clothes even in severe winter.
After visiting the Kumbh Mela of 1895, Mark Twain wrote, “It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”
The auspicious bathing dates of Haridwar Purna Kumbha Mela are as follows:
- 14 January 2010 (Thursday) - Makar Sankranti Snan
- 15 January 2010 (Friday) - Mauni Amavasya and Surya Grahan
- 20 January 2010 (Wedesday) - Basant Panchmi Snan
- 30 January 2010 (Saturday) - Magh Purnima Snan
- 12 February 2010 (Friday) - Maha Shivratri - Pratham Shahi Snan (First Royal Bath)
- 15 March 2010 (Monday) - Somvati Amavasya - Dvitya Shahi Snan (Second Royal Bath)
- 16 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Navsatrambh Snan
- 24 March 2010 (Wednesday) - Ram Navmi Snan
- 30 March 2010 (Tuesday) - Chaitra Purnima Snan
- 14 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Baisakhi - Pramukh Shahi Snan (Main Royal Bath)
- 28 April 2010 (Wednesday) - Shakh Purnima Snan