Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage. It occurs four times every twelve years and rotates among four locations: Allahabad (Prayag) at the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna and mythical Saraswati river, Haridwar along the Ganga river, Ujjain along the Kshipra river and Nashik along the Godavari river.
The Ardh Kumbh Mela is celebrated every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad, while the Purna (complete) Kumbh always takes place at Allahabad every twelve years. Over 45 days beginning in January 2007, more than 70 million Hindu pilgrims took part in the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Allahabad, and on January 15, the most auspicious day of the festival of Makar Sankranti, more than 5 million participated.
The Maha Kumbh Mela (‘Great’ Kumbh Mela) which comes after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’ which is after every 144 years is also held at Allahabad. The 2001, Maha Kumbh Mela was attended by around 60 million people, making it the largest gathering anywhere in the world.
According to Indian astrology, it is celebrated when the planet of Brihaspati (Jupiter) moves into the zodiac sign of Aquarius or Kumbha. Each sites celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Sun, Moon, and Jupiter.
Kumbha is a Sanskrit word for Pitcher, sometimes referred to as the Kalasha, it is also a zodiac sign in Indian astrology for Aquarius, the sign under which the festival is celebrated, while Mela means ‘a gathering’ or ‘a meet’, or simply a fair.