Thousands of Indian Americans came together to celebrate “Kumbh Mela USA 2015” at the grounds of Excelsior High School in Norwalk, California on October 24th with ritualistic prayers and chants for peace. The ancient Indian tradition was celebrated as nearly three dozen temples from the United States and Canada came together to organize the Kumbh Mela, which is Hinduism’s mass pilgrimage. A daylong schedule included several re-enacted elements of the Hindu pilgrimage, appearances by an activist and an author, and a rain dance.
Kumbh Mela is the greatest pilgrimage and festival in the Hindu religion. The event is a religious and cultural spectacle, which occurs once in three years attracting millions from around the globe to take a dip in the holy waters of rivers like Ganga, Yamuna, Godavari, Kshipra and the mythical Saraswati. This event is the largest congregation in the history of mankind with more than 100 million people participating in 2014. At its heart, the mega event celebrates the power of spirituality, and the pull towards higher states of enlightened consciousness.
The Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad (ABAP) has been organizing the Kumbh Mela in India since time immemorial. It is the apex body of Hinduism, including all the 13 Akhadas (houses of monks) and over 1 million sadhus (spiritual seekers). For the first time ever, the ABAP organized the Kumbh Mela outside India.
Shri Nithya Mukthananda traveled to Norwalk from Seattle, Wash., and coordinates the North American operations of the Nithyananda Hindu Temple. He explained the Kumbh Mela as a journey of spirituality. “Kumbh Mela is one of the most unique festivals in Hinduism, and it’s one of the most ancient festivals of Hinduism. It’s the largest gathering of humanity in the world. It is a celebration of the highest possibility of humanity. Enlightenment is one of the highest possibilities,” Mukthananda said. “In the process, it is people who are spiritually inclined from all walks of life to come together to celebrate life.”
Attendees celebrated life from the very beginning of the event. The Kumbh Mela began with a fire ritual, which lasted about 30 minutes. The fire ritual was followed by chants for world peace, the rain dance and procession, and then a Grand Holy Bath with consecrated water.
A rain dance performed by Danza Azteca Xochipilli brought unique energy to the Kumbh Mela and galvanized the participating temples who followed the dancers on a quarter-mile circle around the Excelsior High School grounds as part of the opening procession.
Chapters of the Nithyanandeshwara Hindu Temple from Phoenix, Seattle, Houston, San Jose, Toronto, St. Louis, Oklahoma and Ohio participated in the procession. A dance troupe representing Mexican and Aztec culture donned colorful headdresses, costumes and footwear as they danced their way around the school grounds asking Mother Nature’s blessings for rain.
A handful of booths were erected in one corner of the school grounds, where Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant prepared food for visitors. The event was also highlighted by an aarti, bhajans and appearances by authors Rajiv Malhotra and Stephen Knapp. Guests were provided with free food. “Hinduism is a celebration of life,” Mukthananda said.