The festival is one of the largest peaceful gatherings in the world, and considered as the "world's largest congregation of religious pilgrims". The literal meaning of Kumbh is a pitcher, but its elemental meaning is something else. Even as a symbol of pitcher, Kumbh is synonymous with holy activities as in daily life a pitcher (or kalash) is an integral part of all sacred activities in Hindu culture, and this pitcher is a symbol of Kumbh. Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred or holy river.
Maha Kumbh has a mesmerizing influence over the minds of Indians as it is witness to the largest human gathering in History for the same cause on a single day irrespective of any worldly barriers of caste, creed, colour and religion. It is once in a lifetime experience seeing millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world come together for a common goal-this spectacle of Faith is truly unforgettable.
This festival is held in highest regard as the ritual bath in the sacred water on this day saturated with flower & incense fragrance amidst chanting of vedic hymns and mantras liberates one from all sufferings and miseries of Life. The Kumbh Mela considered the most sacred and greatest of North Indian festivals where the ceremonial dip in the Holy river is an important ritual. It is believed that bathing on this auspicious day cleanses one of all sins. The most auspicious day for the ritual bath at Kumbh is on the day of the new moon when one gets rid of all sins and evils and is granted salvation. One attains Moksha (meaning liberation from the cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth).
This festival will be incomplete without the presence of Sadhus and ascetics who represent different orders (Akhadas). Sadhus like Vaishnav (Followers of Vishnu), Shaiva (flowers of Shiva). The most interesting feature is the presence of Naga Sadhus-(known as preserver of faith). A particular sect of sadhus initiates the ritual bath and leave after the dip in the holy water to make way for another order. Many pilgrims gather to also take blessings from these sadhus.
Significance of this unique event is the blending of religious and cultural features. Rig Veda has a mention about the significance of convergence of river Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag or Sangam. References can be found about the significance of this ritual in Varaha Purana and Matsya Purana as well. There is a belief that the ashram of the leamed Bharadvaja, where Lord Ram, Laxman and Sita lived at the time of their exile, was situated at Sangam. It is said that a number of saints including the great Shankaracharya and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu visited Sangam and observed the Kumbh Mela. The great Indian epics such the Ramayana and Mahabharata have mentioned that a yagna was conducted by Lord Brahma at Sangam.
Traditionally, four fairs are widely recognized as the Kumbh Melas, these four fairs are held periodically at one of the following places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik district (Nashik and Trimbak), and Ujjain.
Each site's celebration dates are calculated in advance according to a special combination of zodiacal positions of Bṛhaspati (Jupiter), the Sun and the Moon.