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Nashik Kumbh Mela
Between July 30 and September 1 this year, thousands of visitors – sadhus, pilgrims, tourists from India and abroad – will head for the twin pilgrim centres of Panchavati and Trimbakeshwar, near Nashik, Maharashtra, for the Kumbh Mela.Preparations begin well in advance.

The organizers are making the most of technology to handle the large number of visitors expected to throng the religious event Mobile phones, CDs, closed circuit TVs are all in evidence.

In Nashik, over 2000 temples stand on the banks of the River Godavari, dedicated to the myriad gods of the Hindu pantheon, Close by are the Pandu Lena Caves (250 BC – 600 AD). A broad terrace that runs in front of the old Buddhist caves offers a panoramic view of the holy city of Nashik.

According to mythology, Indra, the king of the gods, lost everything to the demons, Lord Vishnu counseled him to make peace with the demons, and with their help to churn the ocean of milk out of which ambrosia could be gained. The Gods could then regain their lost sovereignty by drinking it. The great Samudramanthan, the churning of the ocean, began with the help of the mountain Mandara as the churning rod, and Vasuki, the great serpent, as the rope. Of the 14 jewels thrown up was the Amrit Kumbha – the pitcher filled with nectar. The gods and the demons thought over the pitcher, and during the struggle for the divine nectar, a few drops spilled in four places – the holy sites of Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Trimbakeshwar.

Another version is that while the gods and demons were locked in combat, the mythical bird Garuda flew away with the pitcher. As it was too heavy for the bird to carry, the nectar fell at these four places.

Historians believe that the Kumbh Mela was started during the reign of king Harshavardhana (612-647 AD). The Chinese scholar and traveler Hieun Tsang recorded such fairs. Adi Shankaracharya used the occasion to bring learned men together to exchange thoughts and ideas.

Amarnath Yatra : August 12, 2003

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