Important Hindu religious festival held every 12 years at the appropriate planetary conjunction; an Ardh-Kumbha (half-Kumbha) is held midway between the major Kumbha festivals. Kumbha is equivalent to the sign Aquarius, and the festival is calculated at the conjunction of Jupiter, Aquarius, Aries, and the sun. The festival takes place at either Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain, or Nasik. In 1977 the festival was at Allahabad, an especially holy place where the sacred river Ganges merges with the Jamuna and the Saraswati.
Ritual bathing by pilgrims is a special feature of the festival, which originated in ancient times as an occasion for spiritual instruction from great sages and yogis. Some two million pilgrims attend the festival to visit wandering holy men and yogis from all over India. The festival is divided into different camps relating to individual Hindu sects and subsects.
The Indian government has provided sanitary facilities and a system of barricades to prevent accidents caused by vast crowd movements. Kumbha Mela is one of the most colorful mass festivals of India, a kind of nongenerational super-Woodstock of the spiritual life.