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Simhastha The experience of a lifetime

Simhastha-2004 Ujjain

     The very mention of the Simhastha at Ujjain engenders a surge of devotional feelings in devout Hindus. The month long world's largest religious congregation brings together millions of people from all over India as well as abroad. Driven by faith and the quest for inner peace, they throng to this holiest of holy cities to be part of this unique bathing festival.

     Braving the scorching Sun of April-May the devotees enjoy the company of seers and saints, listen to religious discourses, witness the Ramlilas and Raslilas , visit the various Akharas , watch the royal processions of Sadhus, and of course take holy dips in the Kshipra. They imbibe the experience of being part of the festivities and the devotion-charged ambience permeated with the ultimate consciousness. Every particle of the holy city is full of Shiva. All mundane divisions vanish here and they are seamlessly harmonized into a single entity. For them this is the experience of a lifetime.

     While millions of devotees are eagerly waiting for the Simhastha, Ujjain , the City Eternal , is sprucing up to host the mega event to be held from April 5 , 2004 to May 4 , 2004. The Mela would attract about 30 million people including over one million sadhus, saints and seers.

     Four Kumbh Melas are organized in Prayag ( Allahabad ) , Haridwar , Nasik and Ujjain . The Kumbha at Ujjain is called Simhastha as the Sun is in the Aries and the Jupiter in the Leo. The Kumbh in Haridwar is held when the Sun is in the Aries and the Jupiter in the Aquarius. The Kumbh in Prayag is held when the Sun is in the Capricorn and the Aries in the Taurus. The Simhastha at Ujjain has special significance as a rare configuration of planets takes place in 12 years when the Sun is in the Aries and the Jupiter in the Leo. Another special feature of this Simhastha is that for the first time there would be three Shahi Snans ( Royal Baths) during the month long mega fair. Besides, there would be two Parva Snans.

     There are stories galore about origin of the Simhastha, the most famous being that of the Samudra Manthan or Churning of the Ocean. The story has it that the gods and demons churned the ocean and found an Amrit Kund (an urn containing nectar).  To ensure that the urn was not fallen in the hands of demons, the gods handed it over to Brihaspati , the Moon God, the Sun God and the Saturn. When Jayant , the son of the Indra, ran away holding the urn in his hands, the demons chased him. A fierce battle ensued and the lasted twelve days. One day of gods is equivalent to one year of humans, so in that way the battle lasted twelve years. In the struggle to possess the urn, some drops of the nectar fell on four points of the earth Haridwar ,Prayag , Nasik and Ujjain . Mythology has it that these drops developed into four sacred rivers viz. the Ganges, the Yamuna ,  the Godavari and the Kshipra, respectively. Hence the four Kumbha Melas at these four places as per specific configuration of planets.

     A holy dip in the Kshipra during the Samantha is considered to be a dip into eternity that absolves the devotee of all the past sins. The Mela begins with the first Shahi Snan on April 5 ( Chaitra Shukla Purnima, Monday, V.S. 2061) and ends with the third Shahi Snan would on May 4 ( Vaishakh Skukla Purnima , Thursday, V.S. 2061). In between there would be the second Shahi Snan on April 22, 2004 (Vaishakh Shukla Tritiya , Thursday V.S. 2061). Besides, the two Parva Snans would be on April 19, 2004 ( Vaishakh Krishna Amavasya, Monday, V.S. 2061) and on April 24 , 2004 ( Vaishakh Shukla Panchami, Saturday , V.S. 2061).

     The significance of a bath in the Kshipra can be gauged from a verse of the Skanda Purana. According to it " The holy bath of the Kumbha equals in punya to thousands Kartik Snans, hundred Magh snans and crorees of Narmada snans during Vaishakh month. The fruits of Kumbha snan is equal to the fruits of thousands of Ashvamedh Yajna , hendreds Vajpaiyee Yajna and lakhs of journeys around the earth.

     Looking to the importance of bathing in the Kshipra arrangements have been made to ensure that the large number of devotees have no inconvenience in taking holy dips in the river. A total of eleven stop dams have been constructed from the source of Kshipra to Ujjain so that the Skhipra water can be stored and the devotees can take the holy dips in its water. The ghats have been renovated and widened for the convenience of devotees.

     The city of Mahakal , previously known as Avanti , Kushsthali , Kanashringa , Bhaumvati , Padmavati , Pratikalpa , Amaravati , Vishala , Avantika , Ujjayani ect is considered to be holiest of the holy cities. The most important thing about Ujjain is that it has the only south-facing idol of Mahakaleshwar, the God of gods as well as demons. The Adi Purana describes Ujjain as the most sacred city on the earth planet.  According to Skanda Purana the city  has 84 Mahadevas, 64 Yoginis , 8 Bhairavas and 6 Vinayakas ( Ganesh). The city has been the seat of learning where all disciplines of knowledge flourished since time immemorial. Lord Krishna, along with his elder brother, Balram and his best friend, Sudama received early education at the Ashram of seer Sandeepani.

     Situated along the banks of the Kshipra, the city has been eulogized by great poets like Ved Vyasa and Kalidasa. Vikramaditya, the legendary emperor, ruled the city with his famous Navratnas (nine jewels) including Kalidasa , Shanku, Dhanvantari , Betalbhatta, Varruchi, Varahavihir , Kshapdak , Ghatkarpar and Amar Singh-each one of them the last word in their respective field of knowledge.

     Another significance of the city is that it is on the Tropic of Cancer. Therefore, the meridian line of Ujjain became the prime meridian of India . The Vikram Samvatsar originated in this ancient capital city. According to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen " there is something very striking about the consistency of Ujjain 's dominance in Indian time accounting." The city was an important center of astronomy in the Gupta period. Renowned astronomer, Varahmihir had worked here. In the 18th century, Sawai Maharaja Jaisingh of Jaipur constructed the famous observatory at Ujjain to encourage astronomical studies and to popularize astronomy among people.

     Akharas, as always would be star attraction of the Simhastha. In keeping with the tradition all the Akharas would move out in procession from their camps to the ghats for the ceremonial holy bath. The Mela administration would provide adequate land and all basic facilities like electricity drinking water etc to them. As many as 13 main Akharas will participate in the Simhastha. These include Shri Panchayati Taponidhi Nirnjani Akhara,, Shri Panchayati Anand Akhara, Shri Panch Dashnami Joona Akhara, Shri Panch Dashnami Avhan Akhara, Shri Panch Agni Akhara, Shri Panchayati Mahanirvani Akhara, Shri Panch Atal Akhara, Shri Panchayat Bada Udasin Akhara, Shri Panchayati Udasin Naya Akhara, Shri Panchayati Nirmal Akhara , Shri Rananandiya Nirvani Ani akhara, Shri Panch Digamar Ani Akhara and Shri Panch Ramanidiya Nirmohi Ani Akhara.

     Besides, Shankaracharyas, saints of different sects, Mandaleshwars, Mahamandaleshwars come to the Simhastha with their followers and disciples. The common devotees pay respect to them and take holy dip after them.

     The Simhastha would create such a spectacle of unsurpassable grandeur and faith alongwith unprecedented outpouring of divinity and spirituality that all man made divisions would be harmonized and welded seamlessly.  The Simhastha would m certainly be the experience of a lifetime to the pilgrims tourists and other visitors.

                                                                               D.K. Malviya

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