This video from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly shows Hindu pilgrims from India and beyond gathering to celebrate Kumbh Mela, which involves the ritual of purification by bathing in four sacred rivers. The pilgrims in the video walk hundreds of miles to bathe in the River Ganges. Kumbh Mela is based upon ancient Hindu mythology and occurs four times during a twelve year cycle. Hinduism, considered to be the oldest religious tradition in the world, consists of a complex combination of theology, philosophy, culture and rituals that vary depending upon region.
Hinduism Glossary (Document)
Hinduism, the third largest religion in the world, has no single religious leader or liturgy. There are various ideas about the origins of the term “Hindu.” Whether it originated from early Indus-Valley texts or Persian corruption of the word “Sindu,” a name for the Indus River, it became the term the British Empire ascribed to all inhabitants of India. Since the early 19th century, it has been used as a blanket term for the "polytheism of India," attempting to encompass the myriad spiritual practices, beliefs and rituals that exist across India. In reality, what Western culture has come to call Hinduism is a collection of beliefs and practices that vary widely, with concepts of God and/or gods and goddesses ranging from panentheism, pantheism, monotheism, polytheism to atheism.
The Kumbh Mela is the most widely attended spiritual event in the world. Attendance in 2007 reached approximately 70 million. According to the Hindu myth of “churning the ocean milk,” as the world came into being the Gods and the demons fought over the ocean. Lord Dhanvantari emerged from the ocean into the sky carrying a pot of amrita or precious nectar. In the battle to take possession of the pot, drops of nectar fell to earth in four places. Today, Kumbh Mela is observed at specific sites at four sacred rivers: Haridwar along the Ganges River, Ujjain by the Kshipra River, Nasik by the Godavari River and Allahabad near the confluence of three rivers, the Ganges, Yamuna, and the mystical Saraswati. The Kumbh Mela occurs every four years within a twelve-year cycle, rotating among the aforementioned sites. Diverse groups of pilgrims from various social, economic and spiritual backgrounds camp at the sites for up to 41 days, taking meals, seeing performances and seeking the teachings of sadhus, or religious ascetics.
Sadhus have renunciated society in their desire to achieve, through meditation and contemplation, moksha, the fourth and final goal of Hindu life, escaping the cycle of birth. Many sadhus begin as ordinary individuals who attend school, start a career and have a family. Once these worldly goals are achieved, some individuals separate themselves to live in isolation or within an ashram under the guidance of a guru to attain spiritual enlightenment.
It is at the Maha Kumbh Mela, held once every twelve years in Allahabad, where the greatest numbers of pilgrims bathe in the Ganges for the purpose of purification. A principal concept of Hinduism is that moral consequences are associated with every act, resulting in the moral law of cause and effect. Accordingly, some actions or karma bring about higher rebirth while other actions bring about lower rebirth. Pilgrims believe ritual bathing at specified times will wash away karma, and ultimately lead to moksha.
DR. UMA MYSOREKAR: The pilgrims come from all over the world, of course largely from India, [and they] are gathered together for a spiritual exercise for forty-one days. I'm told this year over sixty million have gathered.
They bathe in the river Ganges. The significance is spiritual purification and spiritual elevation of the pilgrims. Bathing in this river is believed to purify and wash of the sins of the pilgrims.
Many, many sadhus come to this Kumbh Mela from all over the country and they walk hundreds and hundreds of miles.
Sadhus are considered holy people who have detached from the worldly affairs and ... who communicate to the public in a spiritual way, enlighten them spiritually, guide them [to] the right thought, and show them the willpower that is required for our day-to-day life.
Hinduism can be symbolized as a large tree -- the branches of the tree representing different religious thoughts.
Hinduism is actually a monotheistic religion worshipping many gods. It is one -- a single God -- what we call supreme Brahman.
But then these are three different forms and the lord of creation is Lord Brahma; lord for protection or preservation is Lord Vishnu; lord for the destruction of the evils is Lord Shiva. All other gods are what we consider the equivalent to angels.
[These are] three principles which guide us on our day-to-day life, seeking solace, and ultimately peace, and then salvation or merging with the lord.
All of us pray in different ways, but ultimately we all reach that same lord.
When you pray, you literally speak to the lord. It is a one-way conversation. You are asking the lord to bless you with what you want.
When you meditate, you are thinking of the lord and you are listening from the lord.
[The] combination of meditation and prayer is what is practiced by just about every Hindu.
It is possible that I reach that lord in my way because that gives me my contentment and someone else does it in a different way.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.