A mass pilgrimage of Hindu faith was honored and celebrated in Southern California last weekend, as hundreds of Hindus gathered on the grounds of Excelsior High School here in Norwalk, Calif., to take part in the “Kumbh Mela USA 2014” event Feb. 22.
Organized by the Sanatana Hindu Sangha, the Saturday afternoon and evening event reenacted one of the most celebrated traditions in India for the benefit of the Indian American community.
The Kumbh Mela festivities here included a grand procession of Hindu temples and organizations, an immersion of deities into a pool of holy water from the Ganga River (Ganga Snaan), and a series of bhajans and devotional songs performed during the evening.
Highlighting the Kumbh Mela was a recorded speech from Mahamandaleshwar, or spiritual head. Shown on a large television, Mahamandaleshwar shared with the estimated 500 people in attendance the significance of the Kumbh Mela.
“The message of Kumbh Mela is sharing and caring, coming together, sharing our spiritual bliss, and expressing our love and care for everyone,” Mahamandaleshwar said in his video message. “Without losing our uniqueness, showing our unity is really what is needed now for Sanatana Hindu dharma. Without losing our uniqueness, let us all be together.”
Afterwards, attendees were treated to free food. The “prasad” included garbanzo beans (chhole), lentil soup (daal), bread (puris), rice, and a sweet.
Vegetarian dishes were also available for sale at booths occupied by Rasbhog and Udupi.
Moments after sunset, the Kumbh Mela continued with a “spectacle of lights” with Ganga Arati, where priests offered large lit lamps to the pool of Ganga River water.
The evening ended with Artesia Mayor Sally Flowers making a brief visit to offer her best wishes to the attendees, and a performance of bhajans and devotional songs.
In addition to Rasbhog and Udupi, many community and faith-based groups occupied one of the nearly 20 booths about 100 yards east of the main stage area, including the Shree Pashupatinath Foundation; Osho Niranjana Meditation Center; Hanuman Temple; SSY U.S.A.; Radha Govinda Temple of Tarzana; Gaudiya Vedanta Publications; SAHARA; and Sankara Eye Foundation.
Mahamandaleshwar said in his video message that the Kumbh Mela is considered one of the world’s largest and oldest traditions. The primary pilgrimage and festival generally draws millions of people from all over the world every three years, with each sect of Hinduism congregating at one location to form what many claim to be the largest gathering of human beings on Earth.
Bathing in one of the designated sacred rivers – “Snaan,” or “holy dip,” as it is called – is a key element of the Kumbh Mela. The point of the “holy dip” is to shower the world with positive energy.
The Kumbh Mela rotates between rivers in four cities, including the Ganga River in Haridwar, the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers in Allahabad, the Godawari River in Nashik, and the Shipra River in Ujjain.
“In India, Kumbh Mela is the place where so much of spiritual sharing and caring happens. Bharat is not just a geographic (identity) it is also a philosophy. Bharat is alive. With this principle, we brought Kumbh Mela to U.S.A. for first time in September 2006,” Mahamandaleshwar said. “Let this Kumbh Mela happening in the United States also be the place where enlightenment is happening to all of us.”
The event’s organizers and supporters included Harish Dhruv, Ashok Desai, Rashmi Shah, Rangesh Gadasalli, Dilip Butani, Kewal Kanda, Ashok Patnaik, Vasu Pawar, Avadesh Agarwal, Abhinav Mehta, Pannkaj Kummar, Madhur Shrivastava, and Sunil Tolani.
Temples participating in the Kumbh Mela included the All World Gayatri Parivar (Anaheim); Gayatri Mandir (Hawaiian Gardens); Hindu Temple and Cultural Center (Chatsworth); ISKCON (Laguna Beach); ISKCON New Dwarka (Culver City); Jagannath Society of California (Irvine); Jain Center of Southern California (Buena Park); Krishna Valley Temple (Apple Valley); Malibu Hindu Temple (Calabasas); Nithyananda Vedic Temple (Los Angeles); Pashupatinath Foundation (Norwalk); Radha Raman Temple (Placentia); Ram Kabir Temple (Carson); Sanatan Dharma Temple (Norwalk); Sri Panchmukha Hanuman Temple (Torrance); Sri Ram Kabir Bhakta Samaj of Southern California (Norwalk); Sri Umiya Mataji Mandir (Norco); and Siddhivinayak Temple (Brea).