Kumbha, The Festival of Immortality is drawn from the Lord's pastime of protecting the demigods from the demons by producing nectar from the ocean of mille The fighting between the devas and the asuras lasted for twelve earth years (twelve demigod days), Maha Kumbha-melas are held at each of these sites once every twelve years and ardha Kumbha-melas every six years.
Lokanath Swami captures the celebration of this Mela at Prayag, Nasik, Haridwar and Ujjian. It attracts millions of pilgrims who believe that bathing in the holy rivers at this auspicious time guarantees liberation from birth and death. Srila Prabhupada attended the 1971 and 1977 with his disciples.
"On April 20, 2004 history was made at the Ujjain Kumbha-mela when the All India Sadhu Samaj officially accepted Lokanath Swami as a mahanta representing ISKCON. Dina-Bandhu Prabhu
Lokanath Swami was born in 1949 in Aravade, a village in Maharastra. In 1971 he met the Hare Krishna devotees at ISKCO 's first pandal program in Bombay.
In 1976, on Srila Prabhupada's order Lokanath Swami organised a padayatra across India. The first leg was from Vrndavana to Mayapur, stopping in Allahabad at the 1977 Kumbha-mela, which Prabhupada attended. Maharaja expanded his padayatra service worldwide as ISKCON's Global Padayatra Minister. By 1996, Prabhupada's Centennial year, padayatras were held in over a hundred countries. The All India Padayatra still continues, and many in other parts of the world as well.
Lokanath Swami provided the inspiration to begin ISKCON's yearly Vraja-mandala parikrama in 1987. Maharaja has personally walked the parikrama path for many years. He is also credited with having developed Navadvipa-mandala parikrama.
I bow to Lord Dhanavantari who bears in His attractive four hands a conch shell, a cakra disc, a golden leech and a pot of immortal nectar. One whose fine, shining and pure upper garment makes him appear especially wonderful, whose eyes are like lotus, whose bright bodily luster is the color of a fresh rain cloud, whose beautiful waist is adorned by a magnificent yellow dress and who, by His pastimes burns away all diseases just like a forest fire. To that Lord dhanavantari, I bow respectfully.
With the advent of the 2001 Maha Kumbha-mela approaching, I In to contemplate producing a book informing devotees of the history ie Kumbha-mela festival and, more importantly, to remember Srila Prabhupada's involvement in the festival. After establishing ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada and his disciples from various countries participated in thee 1971 ardha Kumbha-mela and in the 1977 Maha Kumbha-mela in prayaga. I had the great fortune of participating in the Maha Kumbha of 1977. When I informed the ISKCON India Kumbha-mela Committee of my intention, the members encouraged me to pursue the idea.
Besides providing some general information about Kumbha- mela, the main purpose is to highlight the significance of this amazing festival. Kumbha-mela is an ageless festival, celebrating the nectar- churning pastime of the Lord. The word kumbha means 'pitcher' or 'pot, referring to the pot that carried the immortal nectar (amrta) produced from the churning of the ocean of milk.
Srila Prabhupada mi sed no opportunity to attend this festival, I despite his ill health in 1977. Simply by attending these two melas, Prabhupada made a statement about how he regarded the Kumbha-mela to be a valuable preaching opportunity. It is no coincidence that five hundred years ago the Lord Himself, Sri Krsna Caitanya Mahaprabhu visited the Magha-mela and empowered Rupa Gosvami with His preaching potency.
Allahabad is also known as Prayag-raj or the 'king of all rivers of confluence.' - auspicious junction of three sacred rivers. There are seven principal sacred rivers in India:
gange ca yamune caiva godavari sarasvati narmade
sindhu kaveri jale 'smin sannidhim kuru
may water from the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri kindly be present.
Three of these rivers, Ganga, Yamuna and Sarasvati meet in Allahabad. The mela is also celebrated at three other places in India. At Haridwar it is celebrated on the bank of River Ganga, at Ujjain on the bank of River Sipra, and at Nasika on the bank of River Godavari. By the influence of the planets, at certain times the amrta produced from the churning of the ocean of milk reappears at these rivers and the water becomes spiritually surcharged. To bathe in these rivers during these times gives the bather the benediction of liberation. During this period, Allahabad becomes the most populated city in the world.
A more important reason for attending this mela is to bear from advanced souls about the goal of human life. Hearing is the most important process for spiritual progress. Hearing also means that someone must speak. Therefore Srrla Prabhupada said in Prayaga, "Although most of the pilgrim come (to the Kumbha-mela) for liberation, the devotees have come only to preach. Being engaged in Krsna's service, we are already liberated; we are not interested in liberation. We have come to preach devotional service.
This edition is complete with descriptions of the four mela holy places and includes narrations of the glories of the holy rivers flowing at these places. Lord Sri Hari performed many divine pastimes at these places, making these places memorable. By the causeless mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu and by the tireless efforts of Srila Prabhupada and his disciples, ISKCON temples, preaching programs and prasada distribution have been established at each of these four sacred places. My hope is that this book will be a source of education and inspiration for both the general readers and the organizers of the Kumbha-mela alike and is offered in the service of all the pilgrims and devotees.
ISKCON'S Historical victory in Ujjain Kumbha-mela On April 20, 2004 history was made at the Ujjain Kumbha- mela when the All India Sadhu Samaj officially accepted Lokanath Swami as a mahanta representing ISKCON. For many Kumbha-melas, we had been going in the sahi snana along with some other group as we had no official recognition of our own. For this recognition, we had to fight a long battle for several days where Sarvabhauma had to answer many, many objections and prove ISKCON as a bona fide Vaisnava Sampradaya. This was quite critical.
Although it appears to us that Kumbha-mela and the sadhus are quite chaotic, there is a very strict and legal organization behind the scenes. First, there are the dkharas that were originally formed as armies to protect the sadhus in the times of Mughal invasion. All the different sadhus and mahantas come under one akhtirti. They are divided into the Saivite and Vaisnava akharas.
Only after arduous efforts and lengthy discussions with the sadhus, the presidents of all the akharas reached a consensus that ISKCON should have their own akharta and a mahanta.
In front of Gaura Nitai, Lokanath Swami was declared mahanta in a very special ceremony with five brahmanas chanting svasti mantras. Our devotees passed out a special type of cooling sherbet drink called khus to all. They also distributed prasada packets with cashews, almonds, pistachios, and raisins along with a special edition of the Hindi Back to Godhead magazine all about Kumbha-mela. Many of the sadhus were seen reading it with rapt attention. Then the registrar mahanta appeared. He carefully wrote down all the information in the big registrar book.
Lokanath Swami signed it, and finally all the formalities were officially completed.
Everything went quite peacefully. On the day of the sahi snana, or Royal Bath, ISKCON had its own place in the procession. The devotees were dancing like firebrands in what became a victory march to Rama-ghata. They decorated a chariot with yellow flower garlands and put Srila Prabhupada on a beautiful vyasa asana, while Lokanath Swami sat at his feet. All the devotees walked in front of the chariot, singing and dancing. The police, who had seen us every day with our padayatra cart procession were very happy to see us yet again. We reached the ghata and we all rushed to take our baths. Afterwards our new mahanta Srila Lokanath Swami Maharaja led an ecstatic kirtana. Many groups of devotees began to join the kirtana. It was a very powerful and grand kirtana.
Instead of going back to our camp, we went down to Sandipani Muni's asrama where Krsna and Balararna went to school. We had fired up kirtana there and took darsana. Then taking a route off the main road as other processions were to come, we went through other parts of the Kumbha-mela camp to our ISKCON camp. When we reached, we could see that Lokanath Swami was really glowing.
We had made history and another hard-earned victory for Srila Prabhupadal
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