Pilgrims bathe in sacred Godavari River : Kumbh Mela, Nashik

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The Kumbh Mela is considered as the largest peaceful human gathering in the world. When Jupiter and the Sun fall in the zodiac sign of Leo, the Kumbh Mela comes to Trimbakeshwar near Nashik in Maharashtra, once, every twelve years. With chants of ‘Jai Shree Ram’ and ‘Har Har Mahadev’ filling the air; processions of unclothed, ash-smeared Naga Sadhus running with excitement to take the holy dip in the Godavari River and hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists flocking to Nashik from all over India and the world; the Kumbh Mela is an unforgettable lifetime event for pilgrims and tourists alike.

Trimbakeshwar is located about 35 kms from Nashik and is the site of one of the twelve most auspicious and revered Jyotirlingas in Hinduism. The Trimbakeshwar temple is a monument protected by the Archaeological Survey of India. The river Godavari originates from the Brahmagiri Mountains near Trimbakeshwar and flows through to Nashik and beyond. The devotees of Shiva take a dip at Trimbakeshwar whereas the devotees of Vishnu take a dip at Ramkund in Nashik.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Rama used to bathe in the Ramkund while on his stay here in exile from his kingdom of Ayodhya. Also, Ramkund is the place of confluence of rivers Godavari, Varuni and Tharuni, giving rise to the Triveni Sangam.

At Nashik there are three kunds or ponds now, named Ramkund, Sitakund and Laxmankund, helping in better crowd management. Due to the construction of the Gangapur Dam on Godavari, the water level in the river and hence the kunds is now regulated by it and at times falls to low levels.

For all the pilgrims and sadhus making the journey to the Kumbh, the holy dip called snan (bath) in the water of the River Godavari is the most important ritual. On the dates of the shahi snan or royal bath, Sadhus from almost all of the 14 Akhara Parishads take dips in the Ramkund, led by the Juna Akhara which has the highest number of Naga Sadhus.

The Sadhus stay at the Sadhu gram in Tapovan, about 6 kms from Ramkund, which is spread in 283 acres and houses more than a hundred thousand Sadhus. Sights of Sadhus smoking chilam (pipe) or showcasing their weapons such as tridents and swords are common.

With a gathering of millions of people, the Kumbh Mela also brings hopes of high earning to the small traders and fruit-sellers who erect stalls, use carts or the bare roadside for selling their items. One thing which is bound to grab attention is the Ramphal, a somewhat bigger cousin of the Pumpkin. With a rufus coloured peel and and white insides, the fruit is sold in slices and for pilgrims and travelers coming from far-off places, tasting it becomes a natural outcome of curiosity.

During the Kumbh, many other places of interest in and around Nashik see a huge surge in visitors. An important one being Panchvati, a place where Lord Rama built his house while on exile from his kingdom Ayodhya and the place from where his wife Sita was abducted by the daemon King Ravana. Another place of attraction which sees a lot of tourists during the Kumbh Mela are the Pandavleni caves, a group of 24 Hinayana Buddhist caves carved between the 3rd century BC and the 2nd century AD.

Attracting pilgrims not only from India but around the world and even tourists from foreign lands with its aura, and washing away the sins of millions, the Nashik Kumbh Mela concludes on the occasion of Maha Shivratri, leaving behind indelible memories for everyone - the pilgrims, the sadhus, and the smalltime businessmen, all of whom will wait for another twelve years to welcome it back in Nashik, when Jupiter and the Sun will again fall in the zodiac sign of Leo.

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