Kumbha Mela – A Tryst With Jupiter

This year 2013 will see the Kumbha Mela being held at Prayag. The word “Prayag” means “confluence”, a special confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi Rivers.

The Kumbha Mela is one of the oldest and largest congregations of Indian civilization. In a sense, it is a congregation more than a festival.

The Kumbh festival was instituted and popularized by the ancients as an occasion for congregating together to discuss Creation amidst other scientific concepts.

The purpose of the Kumbha Mela was for the people and the Sanyasis, to confluence at a confluence of water bodies, stay for period of three months and discuss in that period various aspects of Sanatana Dharma, its interpretations, its relevance for their present times, the problems that were faced by the society of that generation and the solutions for them within Dharma.

The Snanas that are interspersed on astronomically significant days are only the ritual highlights. The primary purpose of the Kumbh festival, has been the interaction between the people and the sadhus, to discuss issues of the society.

Through these festivals our ancients have shown us the path to experiencing knowledge and putting it to proper use.

 There are three types of Kumbha Mela:

  1. Ardha Kumbha Mela, celebrated once in every six years at Haridwar and Prayag

  2. Purna Kumbha Mela, which takes place every twelve years at four places Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik.

  3. Maha(Great) Kumbha Mela which comes after twelve Purna Kumbha Melas or 144 years and is celebrated in Prayag only.

 Untitled

The Kumbha Mela Festival

You may wonder, why a period of 12 years for a Kumbh festival?

It is common practice today to fix meetings in our calendar. Our calendar today runs for a year and is based on the earth’s revolution around the sun which takes a year.

For such large congregations, a year was too short a time span to seek, learn, assimilate, impart and apply knowledge. They therefore needed a slightly longer calendar, one that would be predictable, easy to follow and also bear relevance to their knowledge mission.

Looking to the sky, the other object that can be tracked in the sky easily is Jupiter.

Jupiter is called Guru or Brhaspathi in Samskrt – Brhaspathi from the root Brh meaning biggest or one that is large in size.  Guru denotes weighty, heavy and thereby the power to attract and retain in hold – the reason why a knowledge master who attracts and guides people to stay on a path of wisdom is called a Guru. It is the same reason why gravity in Samskrt is called Gurutvakarshana which appears to have been the root for the English word “gravity” itself too.

Thus Guru, Jupiter has been associated with knowledge.

If we look at Jupiter, it has a very predictable 12 year cycle.  It is easy to follow in the skies. It also overlaps beautifully with the solar cycle of 1 year and the 12 zodiacs in the zodiac belt since it takes 1 year to move from one zodiac to another. i.e it stays in each zodiac for a year, the time during which the sun in the sky can be seen traversing across all the 12 zodiacs.

So, between Jupiter and the sun, they act like the short hand and long hand of a clock respectively, except that the sky is the dial and the 12 zodiacs are the 12 divisions on the dial.

Therefore Jupiter and sun became convenient tools as a calendar to set meetings. The association of Jupiter, Guru with knowledge also made it very apt for setting the calendar for congregations of knowledge such as the Kumbh.

Thus we have the various Kumbh held at the following configurations of Jupiter and Sun.

The cycle of Purna Kumbh Mela starts with Jupiter in Taurus and Sun in Capricorn – Prayag. This will repeat when Jupiter comes back to Taurus once every 12 years.

When Jupiter moves to Leo and Sun also moves to Leo – Nasik. This will repeat when Jupiter comes back to Leo once every 12 years.

When Jupiter continues to stay in Leo for the year and the Sun move into Aries – Ujjain. This will repeat when Jupiter comes back to Leo once every 12 years.

Next is when Jupiter moves into Aquarius and Sun moves to Aries – Haridwar. This will repeat when Jupiter comes back to Aquarius once every 12 years.

Is it just a coincidence that the zodiac which is called Kumbh or the pot of nectar, in Indian Astronomy is also called the Pitcher bearer or Aquarius in Greek Astronomy or had this story of Creation travelled as far as Greece from India in olden days?

Dhanvanthri

 The Kumbh, Pitcher 

Aquarius with gly  

Aquarius Zodiac

 Besides these 12 year cycles, Prayag and Haridwar also host Ardhkumbh every 6 years much like our preliminary meetings before the final conference. Nasik and Ujjain do not celebrate Ardkumbh since the Purna Kumbh in Ujjain follows Nasik within a year and the halfway mark, 6 years of the Nasik – Ujjain Kumbh would come close to the Purna Kumbh in Haridwar.

Every 12th entry of Jupiter into Taurus, i.e. once every 144 years, the Purna Kumbh at Prayag is called Maha Kumbh. The year 2013 happens to be one such Maha Kumbh at Prayag after 144 years.

All Kumbha's

 It is even more fascinating when we see that our ancients had chosen entry of Jupiter into Taurus as the start for the cycle since the constellation Krittika in Taurus is one that marks the true east or cardinal east direction in the skies.

Thus we see that a Kumbha Mela,

  • is a confluence of people,

  • at the confluence of water bodies on earth,

  • when there is a confluence in the sky,

  • for the people to bring about a confluence in their thoughts.

 Such a confluence is a Milan – union, a true mela – fair.

 Is it for this reason that the ancients have so aptly termed it as a kumbha mela?

 Look at the group consciousness of the Indian civilization from so many millennia ago.

 They were in tune with the skies to be able to see it as a clock.

 They were in tune with one another that they could all read the skies to keep time.

 They were in tune with a common thirst for knowledge that across millennia, in large numbers, they have unfailingly kept their tryst with Jupiter, their Guru, for knowledge.

Kumbha Mela – The Legend

This year 2013 will see the Kumbha Mela being held at Prayag. The word “Prayag” means “confluence”, a special confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi Rivers.

The Kumbha Mela is one of the oldest and largest congregations of Indian civilization. In a sense, it is a congregation more than a festival. It is the largest congregation of mankind for any one festival in the world.

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The Kumbha Mela Festival

Kumbh Mela is today viewed as a bathing festival.

Is that all there is to this festival, which has attracted millions from world over across ages? What did this festival signify in days bygone?

 Kumbh means pot, pitcher. The Kumbh festival is celebrated in connection with the creation of the Universe. Puranic legends of the Kumbh, talk of a pitcher with Amrita, nectar whose contents spilt and created the Universe.

In the legend of Samudra Manthan, the churning of the ocean, the pot of  nectar, Amrit came out of the ocean, when the Devas, loosely translated as Gods and Asuras, loosely translated as demons, churned the ocean with a snake, Vasuki, as the rope. During this churning, along with the pot of nectar, all the good and bad were produced.

Samudra Mandhan

 This popular legend in the Purana is seen in various forms of sculptures, paintings, not only in India but also in South East Asia in places such as Thailand and Cambodia.

Samudra mantha2

A Samudra Manthan Scene Depiction, Swarnabhoomi Airport, Thailand

This legend is an allegorical representation of the process of creation.

The Vedic texts describe the process of creation as starting with a tug of war between 2 forces – an expanding force called Indra and a holding back force called Vrtra in the Hiranyagrabha, a golden hued womb akin to the cosmic egg concept of modern cosmology.

At one point Indra overcomes Vrtra and this causes the Hiranyagarbha to explode as a Brahmanda Visfotak, universal explosion or Big Bang and spew out the entire Universe.

Indra Rudra

The participants in the Samudra Manthan,  churning, are also the Devas and Asuras. The head of Devas is Indra. Vrtra is a mighty Asura.

The Indra – Vrtra tug of war going on in the Hiranyagarbha  is akin to the churning by the Devas and Asuras from which emerged the pot of nectar whose spillage gave rise to the Universe.

The platform for the Samudra Manthan is Vishnu as a tortoise. A tortoise brings to mind its behaviour to withdraw itself fully into its hard shell and stay unmoving. This picturization is similar to the Hiranyagarbha, a womb into which the previous cycle of Creation withdraws and stays as remnants to form the matter for the next cycle of Creation.

The act of churning of the ocean which produced all the good and the bad in the Universe, also  is  akin to the Panchikaranam process described in the Veda, through which the entire Universe was created.

These go to establish Kumbh festival as a festival to commemorate the Creation of the Universe and helps to place the event of the churning of the ocean as the Indra -Vrtra tug of war inside the Hiranyagarbha before it bursts open as the Big Bang and creates the Universe.

Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the scientific divinities of the Universe. These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with these divinities.

The Kumbh is the Gateway to understand the concept of Creation.

This understanding is what our ancient Rishis have given to us in many forms such as the ancient texts still available with us today, the form of art, the form of practices and such festivals too.

This understanding lends a stark profoundness to the celebration of Kumbh as opposed to regarding it as a bathing festival of the Hindus.

The Kumbh festival was instituted and popularized by the ancients as an occasion for congregating together to discuss Creation amidst other scientific and spiritual concepts along with issues faced by the society for that generation.

 Kumbh is the time to celebrate and feel one with the science and spirit of Creation.

Kumbha Mela – The Purpose

This year 2013 will see the Kumbha Mela being held at Prayag. The word “Prayag” means “confluence”, a special confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswathi Rivers.

The Kumbha Mela is one of the oldest and largest congregations of Indian civilization. In a sense, it is a congregation more than a festival.

Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the Universe and the scientific divinities of the Universe. These festivals become gateways for people to reach out and be in communion with these divinities.

The Kumbh is the Gateway to understand the concept of Creation.

The Kumbh festival is based on the story of creation where the Kumbh, the pot of nectar spilled out its contents and led to the formation of the Universe. This is a depiction of the profound description in the Veda of the scientific process of Creation from the cosmic egg called Hiranyagarbha, a golden hued womb which bursts open as a Brahmanda Visfotak, a Big Bang, to spew out the Universe.

In the Kumbh festival we see the connect between

  • the allegorical Puranic legend of creation from a kumbh, pot,

  • the traditional Vedic explanation of creation and

  • the modern cosmological scientific description of creation from the Big Bang.

It is to correlate the microcosm with the macrocosm, Yatha Pinde, Thatha Brahmande. The thought goes back to the start of Creation, an event that transcends religion and geographies.

Continuous records of the Kumbh festival go back to over 5100 years and more.

There is mention of the Kumbh and the bathing ritual associated with it, in the Rig Veda (verse 10.89.7). It speaks of the values of bathing in the river during this period and how it eliminates negative influences and rejuvenates one positively, when done with piety.

The praying to the Kumbha is also expressed in other Veda such as Atharva Veda and Yajur Veda.

This tells us that the concept of Kumbha and what it portrays has been venerated from Vedic times itself which goes back to atleast 5100 years ago.

Later down in history, during the period of Emperor Harshavardhana, who ruled from Sthaneshwar, in present day Haryana and later from Kannauj, around 640 CE, there was a Kumbh Mela gathering at Prayaga in the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna. Prayaga was a part of his kingdom. About 5 lakh people had assembled then. After going through the elaborate sequence of rituals, he gave Dhana – gifts, donations, to the scholars and sanyasis assembled there. His generosity was so great that he had given off everything he had brought with him and finally had to return with a piece of simple cloth loaned to him by his sister.

We learn this from the accounts of both Huan Tsang or Xuanzang (602 – 664 CE), the Chinese traveller who visited India between 629 – 645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana as well as from Harshacharita, of Bana, the court poet in the kingdom of Harshavardhana.

This act of emperor Harshavardhana reflects the ethos of the land, of giving Dhana at such confluences.

Even as recent as 1895, Mark Twain, the celebrated author, wrote in his book “Following the Equator: A journey around the world”, his experience of visiting the Kumbh Mela.

following the equater

“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”

 170px-Mark_Twain_DLitt

Mark Twain

The Kumbh festival was instituted and popularized by some of the ancient Kings and saints as an occasion for congregating together to discuss Creation amidst other scientific concepts.

This festival was given the present format by Adi Shankara. Since then, for the last 2500 years, it has been celebrated in this format.

adi_sankara

Adi Shankara

The purpose of the Kumbha Mela was for the people and the Sanyasis, to confluence at a confluence of water bodies, stay for period of three months and discuss in that period various aspects of Sanatana Dharma, its interpretations, its relevance for their present times, the problems that were faced by the society of that generation and the solutions for them within Dharma.

The Snanas that are interspersed on astronomically significant days are only the ritual highlights. The primary purpose of the Kumbh festival, has been the interaction between the people and the sadhus, to discuss issues of the society.

Through these festivals our ancients have shown us the path to experiencing knowledge and putting it to proper use.

Once we understand the true meaning, the knowledge and the spirit behind what we do and why we do certain things, it will signal a new beginning for us to live in union with nature and in harmony with one another.

Makara Jyothi

Commonly people think of it as a star and it is celebrated in Sabarimala as Makara Vilakku.

 Below is an interview with D K  Hari and D K Hema Hari where they discuss about Makara Jyothi.

Q. What is Makara Jyothi ?

Commonly people think of it as a star and it is celebrated in Sabarimala as Makara Vilakku.

This very word  Makara Jyothi has 2 words – Makara and Jyothi. What is Makara ? In the sky, we have 12 Rasis or Zodiac signs or constellations. The Sun is in one rasi for a month and transits through to the next rasi in the next month and so in. Like  this the sun covers all the 12 Rasis in a year. As per the Indian calendar, the Sun moves into the Makara Rasi on  January 14th or 15th . This movement of the Sun into the Makara Rasi is called as Makara Sankranti. This event is part of the  annual celestial calendar.

Q. If the sun is moving every month into the next Rasi, what is so special the Sun moving into the Makara Rasi ?

The sun is constantly moving between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricon which is called in the Indian context as Uttarayanam and Dakshinayanam. Makara Sankranti falls in the period when the Sun, which is in the Tropic of Capricon in the Southern Hemisphere, has started  moving northwards towards us in India. Which means we start having longer days. We are starting to come out of the cold season to warmth and it is this Change, new beginning of the seasonal cycle that we celebrate.

uttarayan

 Q. The other word – Jyothi . What  is the significance of the Jyothi with Ayyappa who is prayed to as Makara Jyothi ?

As we have seen here, when the sun is in Southern Hemisphere , we are in the darker period .In darkness it is the Jyothi that lights us all up.

Ayyappa as the name suggests is the embodiment of 5 pre -mordial elements.They being – Akasha,  ( space )Vayu  ( air ), Agni ( fire ), Apah (water) and Prithvi ( earth ). That one visible to us is JyothiTejas (fire or light).

In the long dark nights what stands out is Jyothi or light. It is but appropriate that, during these long dark nights, when we celebrate a fresh breath of life, we celebrate it with light or Jyothi.

 Ayyappa is also known as an embodiment of Dharma .Dharma is not just noble deed but means the very characteristic of Nature itself. This celebration of Makara Sankranti every year, brings to our focus, our understanding of the annual turning of the Sun , of the changes taking place in Nature and new hope of life.

The very name Ayyappa in the South Indian languages, denotes the embodiment of 5, the 5 Primordial elements of which this Universe or Prapancha is made of.

Celebrating the festival of this Makara Sankranti in association with Ayyappa, brings to our attention that we and everything in this Prapancham is made up of Panchabhuta – the  Primordial 5 elements.

So when we say, Ayyappa Saranam , we pay obeisance to these 5 Primordial elements themselves. We pay obeisance to Ayyappa, son of Shiva the cause for the manifestation of matter and Vishnu , the all pervading force which together keep this Universe conforming to the Dharma of the Universe and Nature.

sabarimali

Arthasastra

Arthasastra, the famous treatise on Indian administration was written by Chanakya who is also known as Kautilya, 2000 years ago. Chanakya was the minister of King Chandragupta Maurya.

Chanakya

Chanakya, Kautilya

The text Arthasastra is often referred to as an Indian management text. But in reality, it is more an administration text on how to administer the land. A modern management student would see that the term management per se is slightly different from administration and economics.

Subjects of Arthasastra

Arthasastra consists of 15 chapters. The chapters are,

1. Discipline

2. The Duties of Government Superintendents

3. Law

4. The Removal of Thorns

5. The Conduct of Courtiers

6. The Source of Sovereign States

7. The End of the Six-Fold Policy. The policies are,

8. Vices and Calamities

9. The Work of an Invader

    1. Agreement with pledges is Peace

    2. Offensive operations is War

    3. Indifference is Neutrality

    4. Making preparations is Marching

    5. Seeking the protection of another is alliance

    6. Making peace  with one and waging war with another, a double policy

10. War

11. The Conduct of Business

12. Handling Powerful Enemy

13. Strategies to Capture a Fort

14.Secret Means

15.The Plan of a Treatise

 Timeless adaptability of Arthasastra

 While all this has been seen in the administrative detailing for the kingdoms of the past, what is interesting to note is that with minor adaptations in today’s scenario, it also holds good for multinational corporations, smaller organizations, both government, voluntary, or even family run institutions. This adaptability gives Arthasastra a timeless relevance.

Megasthenes on Arthasastra

Arthasastra text was thought to have been lost in the medieval times. Because of its wide use and relevance through the ages, it has been referred to be an administrative manual through the ages. Megasthenes, a Greek ambassador to India after Alexander’s visit, travelled over much of India and observed the administrative principles of the land.

 Megasthenes

Megasthenes

 He was amazed by the quality of administration across kingdoms. This prompted him to read the Arthasastra text.

It is through this work of Megasthenes, Indika that this administrative treatise, Arthasastra was exposed to the European scholars who were stunned at the depth of administrative detailing, the range of subjects dealt governance.

Indika

Indika

Arthasastra in Panchatantra

Among the other Indian scholars who referred to this work extensively is the author of the other famous text – Panchatantra, Vishnu Sharma, to teach the principles of administration to two intelligent but mischievous princes. Vishnu Sharma has used a lot of these principles of Arthasastra in his parables to these princes.

Vishnusharma

Vishnu Sharma teaching the principles of Administration to the princes

Other references

Like this, the principles of Arthasastra have been referred to by many other authors in their works. When the colonial historians started writing the history of India in the European languages, they found repeated references to Arthasastra. But they could not lay their hands to the text of Arthasastra. Hence it was dubbed as a lost text.

Arthasastra manuscript rediscovered

In 1911, the curator of the Oriental Research Institute, Mysore, Sri Rudrapatna Shamashastry while going through the bundles of palm leaf manuscripts, stumbled upon the full palm leaf manuscripts of Arthasastra.

 shamasastry

Rudrapatna Shamashastry

Since then, the interest in Arthasastra has grown manifold in it being published in English and other European languages apart from the Indian vernacular languages.

Arthasastra in modern Management

With the coming of modern principles of management, there has been a new found interest especially in India of what is contained in Arthasastra and how to apply its principles. Each author sees in Arthasastra their perspective and have brought forth many a meaning to the administrative principles.

Timeless relevance of Arthasastra

That this text Arthasastra finds relevance after over 2000 years of its writing shows the timelessness of the principles of administration. It also shows how this land has been administered prosperously both for small and big kingdoms. The science of economics is an important facet of life and its activities. Business, commerce, finance, economic stability are all an integral part of it.

Chanakya, Father of Administration

Today, we call Adam Smith as the father of economics. His book, ‘The Wealth of Nations’ is recognized as the first treatise on economics.

In the same way, we need to recognize Chanakya, Kautilya and look up to him as the father of good administration.