It is said that we are not the makers of the history , we are made by the history. Similarly , the story of Kumbh narrates our history of origin . Kumbh derives its name from the immortal pot of nector (Amrit) , which the Devtas and Asuras fought over . The tale is described in Puranas or vedic sciptures .
Once when Indra was riding his elephant he came across Rishi Durvasa . Rishi duravasa gifted Indra a garland of flowers . At that time instead of keeping the garland Indra kept the garland on his elephant . His elephant threw the garland on the floor because it was made of flowers which attracted bees and insects and that provoked the elephant .
By knowing this rishi Durvasa was incensed as the garland was pure and must be treated as prasadam . Durvasa cursed all the devas and made them free from all the strengths and powers.
After knowing the ill fortune of the devas the Asuras captured all the three loks from them. Devas were helpless and they went to lord Vishnu . Lord Vishnu gave them the advice to get the Amrit ( immortal nector) from the ocean by the samudramanthan ( the churning of the ocean) .
It was difficult for the devas to churn the ocean alone so they formed an alliance with the Asuras to churn the ocean for getting the amrit . they decided to distribute it among themselves equally .
Although Lord Vishnu told Devas that he would arrange the nector for the Devas only . Hence the manthan began with taking a mountain named mount mandara as a churning rod , the nagraj Vasuki who abides on the neck on the lord Shiva , became the churning rope. The Asuras demanded to hold the head of the snake and the Devas hold the tail of the snake . When they began to churn the ocean the mountain began to sink so the lord Vishnu rescued it in the form of Kurma turtle and lifted the mountain on his shell.
Number of things released from the churning of the ocean . Among the things one was the poison which escaped from the mouth of the snake . The poison was so powerful that it can destroy all the creations . Seeing this lord Shiva consumed all the poison and stored it in his neck . This is the reason he is known as Neelkanth.
There were three categories of Goddesses which emerged from the ocean;
- Lakshmi: the Devi of Fortune and Wealth, who accepted Vishnu as Her eternal consort.
- Apsaras: various divine nymphs like Rambha, Menaka, Punjisthala etc., who chose the Gandharvas as their companions.
- Varuni: taken – somewhat reluctantly (she appeared dishevelled and argumentative) – accepted the Asuras.
Likewise, threetypes of supernatural animals appeared:
- Kamadhenu or Surabhi (Sanskrit: kāmadhuk): the wish-granting cow, taken by Brahma and given to the sages so that the ghee from her milk could be used for Yajna and similar rituals.
- Airavata and several other elephants, taken by Indra.
- Uchhaishravas: the divine seven-headed horse, given to Bali.
Three valuables were also produced:
- Kaustubha: the most valuable Ratna in the world, worn by Vishnu.
- Parijat: the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt, taken to Indraloka by the Devas.
- Sharanga: a powerful bow, symbolic of the Asuras’ belligerence.
Additionally produced were;
- Chandra: the moon which adorned Shiva’s head.
- Dhanvantari: the Vaidya of the Devas’ with Amrita, the nectar of immortality. (At times, considered as two different Ratna)
- Halahala: the poison swallowed by Shiva.
This list varies from Purana to Purana and is also slightly different in the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Finally, the pot containing amrit emerged from the Manthan . To protect it from the Asuras Garuda took it and flew away from the battlefield. The war lasted for 12days and at the end Vishnu took the form of Mohini and distracted the asuras from the pot of Amrit and distributed it among the Devas . The story ends with the rejuvenated devas defeating the asuras.
This was the origin of Kumbh Mela as it is said that during the war some droplets of the Nector were dropped in the four places Haridwar , Nashik , Prayagraj and Ujjain . These places are considered sacred and it is a belief that bathing in the water of the states all the sins of a person can be purged off . Thus Kumbh Mela is held periodically at these 4 places in every 12 years as the 12 days of the battle are considered as the 12 years of the era .