The Descent of Gods: Creating Cultural History in the Kumbh Mela

By Anjali Chauhan.

Published by The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society

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The Kumbh Mela is a legendary Hindu fair which occurs after every twelve years at four different places in Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik and Ujjain in India, according to predetermined astrological constellations. It finds mention in the Guinness Book of World Records since it is the largest gathering in the world for a religious cause. It is marked by mass ritual bathing and several other religious ceremonies.
The 2010 Kumbh Mela at Haridwar witnessed a unique and historical event which is of immense Anthropological significance.The hill gods of Kumaon and Garhwal region in Uttarakhand state of India, are known to be local deities and are usually worshipped by people of a specified geographical region. But in 2010 Kumbh Mela the Hill Gods gave their consent (through their spokesmen) to come down to the city of Haridwar for a holy dip in the Ganga during this Mela. Such a mass movement of deities in the form of a procession for ceremonial bathing had never occurred in the history of the Kumbh Mela. The extremely rare process had several reasons which shall be discussed in the present paper. It shall not only describe the entire event in detail, but shall also analyse its significance by trying to see it in light of Indian Anthropological theories of ‘Universalisation’ of the lesser known deities and as an attempt to connect these deities (of ‘Little tradition’) to the ‘Great tradition’ of the Hindus. The entire study was conducted through rigorous fieldwork in the 2010 Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.

Keywords: Kumbh Mela, Ritual Bathing, Hill Gods, Great Tradition, Little Tradition, Universalisation

The International Journal of Religion and Spirituality in Society, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.37-46. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 724.050KB).

Dr. Anjali Chauhan

SENIOR LECTURER AND HEAD, DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY, University of Lucknow, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

After completing my schooling from Loreto Convent, Lucknow, I did my graduation and post graduation in Social Cultural Anthropology from University of Lucknow. My PhD work is on disability management. Thereafter I qualified UGC NET and was selected by Higher Education Commission. I have done extensive fieldwork in tribal areas of Dheradun. My other areas of research are rural development and corporate anthropology. I have published several papers in referred journals.