Mahamaham: The Kumba Mela of South India


Mahamaham is one of the biggest religious gather that takes place every 12 years in the famous temple town of Kumbakonam. This festival can be passed off as the Kumba Mela of South India considering the mass that gathers to take the holy dip in the Mahamaham tank on this particular sacred day. During this festival, lakhs of devotees come to Kumbakonam, and take bath in a tank named Mahamaham tank, generally followed by a dip in the Kaveri River in Kumbakonam. Near the Temple tank there are 20 holy wells. These wells are named after 20 holy rivers flowing across India.These wells are also called as Theertham i.e. Holy Water.

The last Mahamaham was celebrated 12 years ago, on March 6, 2004. The Next festival is celebrated today on February 22, 2016. Mahamaham is an auspicious event that occurs in the month of February or when the planet Guru (Jupiter) enters Simha (Leo) sign. The massive number of devotees gather at Kumbakonam to have a dip in the Mahamaham tank, along with saints and philosophers. According to the legend, all the rivers of India are believed to meet at the tank on this day and a purification bath at this tank on this day is considered equal to the combined dips in all the holy rivers of India.



There is a legend behind this great festival -Mahamaham.The whole world became submerged in a deluge on account of the wrath of Hindu god Shiva, the destroyer for the unaccountable sins committed by humans on this earth. Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, recreated the world during the beginning of current Kali Yuga. God Shiva (Easwara) pronounced that after the end of the previous era, a divine Celestial Pot carrying nectar -”the essence of life,”would reach a holy place and rest there. The Celestial pot floated down the flooded water across several places and at last settled down at a spot near the river Cauvery where the town Kumbakonam is located.

God Shiva , taking the guise of a hunter, shot an arrow at the divine pot and broke it, making its contents spill and the pot disintegrate into small fragments. The spilling of the essence of life resulted in the revival of life on the planet. Kumbham meaning the pot and Konam meaning crooked – the pot that was broken by Shiva’s arrow. Here in the heart of the town, the pot broke into many parts and scattered around. The various spots became the sites of a score of temples in this town. Kumbeswara, Someswara, Kasi Viswanatha, Nageswara, Kamata Viswanatha, Abimukeshwara, Goutameswara, Banapuriswara, Varahar, Lakshminaryana, Sarangapani, Chakrapani and Varadharaja,etc. Brahma prayed to Shiva to allow pilgrims to visit the tank during the sacred occasion Maham. Accepting his request, it is believed, Shiva along with Vishnu and other celestial deities made their divine presence at the center of the tank.


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