The Magh Mela is one of the greatest annual religious affairs for Hindus. Hindu mythology considers the origin of the Magh Mela to be the beginning of the Universe. An important occasion, the Magh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam (the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati) in Prayag, at Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
In accordance with the traditional Hindu calendar followed in North India, this holy fair is organised every year during the Hindu month of Magh (corresponding to mid January – mid February of the Gregorian calendar); hence the name. The Magh Mela is, however, not confined only to the month of Magh and the important bathing dates are spread over a period of 45 days. The Magh Mela is actually a smaller version of Kumbha Mela. Hence it is also known as mini Kumbha Mela.
Every year, the Magh Mela commences on the day of Makkar Sankranti in January, which is the first important bathing day according to the religious Hindu calendar. It begins with multitudes of pilgrims taking a holy dip at the Sangam on auspicious dates. A large number of people arrive here annually and stay in makeshift houses or tents at the Sangam, spending the entire month of Magh in prayers. This period is known as “Kalpvas”. Those who religiously observe the “Kalpvas” are known as “Kalpvasis”.
The ancient Hindu Vedas mention a “Kalp” to be the period equal to the total number of years in the four yugas – Satyug, Treta, Dwapar and Kalyug. This adds up to several millions of years. It is said that by piously observing a “Kalpavas”, a devotee overcomes the sins in his/her previous birth and escapes the cycle of Janma(birth) and Karma (actions). During each day of the Magh Mela, a Kalpvasi has to take a dip at the Ganges on sunrise praying to the rising sun. Majority of the Kalpvasis partake only a meal a day. After observing 12 Kalpavas, a Kalpavasi has to donate his/her bed and all his belongings (a ritual known as “Shayya Daan”).
Every twelfth year, the Magh Mela is transformed into the Kumbha Mela. Uttar Pradesh is flooded with millions of pilgrims who arrive here during this time to attend this grand event.