Sunday, August 10, 2014

KUMBHA MELA - Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh (Indian Festival)

KUMBHA MELA January-February

Further to the east and south, in the heart of India, KUMBH, the greatest and the most important of the Indian fairs, takes place once every three year, at one of the four places : Nasik in Maharashtra. Ujjaini in Madhya Pradesh, Prayag (Allahabad) and Haridwar in Uttar Pradesh. Hindus from all over the country come in millions for a holy dip. Sadhus of every sect, pilgrims in search of salvation, showmen of every sort, magicians, fakirs and teachers descend in huge hordes to these holy places, in an unprecedented exhibition of religious and commercial fervour. 

Originally the fair served the purpose of meeting of religious heads of various sects in Hinduism, and gave an opportunity for theological debate and discourse on the grandest scale. For close upto a fortnight, while the fair lasts, it is time of frolic and spirited bargaining. A time for dharma and a time for fun.

In addition to this major fair there are many other fairs that are as colourful and exuberant. The Barman Mela in Hoshangabad district takes place in January, climaxed by Til Sankranti. The Charak Mela on the last day of Chaitya (usually in April), is a festival of rural Bengal. The Paus Mela (December) held at Shantiniketan, founded by the poet Rabindranath Tagore, is also another widely attended festival where song and dance prevail. The Kansa Mela, specially celebrated in Mathura and Fatehpur Sikri recalls the destruction of Kansa, the cruel ruler, who tried to destroy Lord Krishna. In Bandra, a suburb of Bombay, there is a yearly fair in early September in honour of Virgin Mary. These are occasional fair as well that take place at intervals. The solar eclipse is an occasion for Hindus to bathe in rivers – preferably at Kurukshetra, Allahabad, Varanasi or Haridwar. Little known local customs have their own charm. In Agra, just before Diwali, children in their best finery carry a clay image of Tisu Maharaj. (probably a local hero) from place to place. People, on the way, give them sweets or money.

A common feature of Indian rural life is the bazaar day or the hat as it is called in north India, or sandy in the south. In the villages, this is not only a social but an economic necessity sometimes having a religious slant. People from adjoining villages assemble in one place to buy what they need and sell what they produce. Usually, the fair breaks after the barter, but sometimes when an important festival comes, other attractions add to the importance of the meeting.

Some of the larger ones arrange a giant wheel, a merry-go-round or even a visit from a travelling circus, apart from all the traditional characters like the medicine-men with their colourful patter, who are to be found at all fairs. These occasions, apart from being diversions in their own way, are also an insight into Indian rural value system.

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