The Mahakumbh of Science and Religion Dialogue

Kumbh mela has to do with dip at the sangam of the river Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati ( the mythical river). It manifests and expresses human urge to transcend history . First recorded history of this great festival is found in the 7th century Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang who visited India from 629 AD to 645 A.D. The feast does portray the pilgrim nature of humanity. Those people that live in tents or hutments ( Kalpwasis) during the festival demonstrate this very clearly. It is not just an triumphalist egoist ‘ I was there’ kind of phenomena. It displays deep faith as well thirst for moksa in the pilgrims. This is why we can set the pilgrim apart from a tourist. We can also distinguish between the ritual and commerce. Like the Kubh mela we have Pushkaram ritual in the south that also is a demonstration of a leap of faith and involves a holy dip in the rivers of the south.

The number twelve is associated with Kumbh mela. It usually arrives after an interval of twelve years. This twelve years interval is significant. It relates to 12 Joytir lingas (self-emanated Shivlingas) , 12 Zodiac signs and 12 months. The ritual bath after an interval of twelve years is thought to be linked to the cleansing of the vices of the 12 sense organs (5 organs of action, 5 organs of perception and the mind and the intellect). In the process of cleansing, the 6 psychic centers (chakras) of humans are stimulated. Kubh means a large pot where knowledge is processed and given to the masses. A legend tells us how it all started. Lack of knowledge brought about crises on earth. Hence, the gods/ devas approached Lord Shiva for solution. Shiva suggested the churring of the sea called ksheer sagar. The gods/ devas led by Indra and demons were led by King Bali. They agreed to churn the ocean. Lord Vishnu became the tortoise, and mount Mandrachal was made the roller and the king of the snakes became the robe. 14 ratnas and a port of immortanlity ( amrit kalas) was produced. It is believed that those who drink am rit become immortal. It is said that Lord Vishnu shared the am rit only among the gods and kept the left over with safely with Lord Indra. In another narrative in the Purna, it is said that the gods/ devas put am rit at four places: Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik. It is also said that in the actual fight between the gods and the demons the am rit fell in the four places. This is why Kumbh mela is held in these four places.

This is why this study wishes to point that humans are kalpwasis and on this pilgrimage, humans can dip into the sangam of Science and Religion. It is in this holy sangam that both Science and Religion enrich each other and humanity. It is in the sacred sphere of the sangam of Science and Religion, Humanity can flourish. Indeed, the sangam of Science and Religion has the promise of sarvajan hitaya ( peace for all). Hence, we have the challenge to embark on a Teertha Yatra (pilgrimage) of bringing together Science and Religion. The sangam of Science and Religion becomes a Kshetra Mahaatmya enriching our society. This means both Science and Religion become Teerthas that can become well brings of inter-relations that can touch humanity, other life and our planet earth profoundly and open them to Parva Mahaatmya ( auspicious time). Just as the Joyti Shastra depends on the a type of alignment of the heavenly bodies, the alignment of Science and Religion promises to bring auspicious time and blessings to humanity. The coming together of Science and Religion churns amrit for humanity. To churn this amrit we have to promote dialogue between Science and Religion. The dialogue between Science and Religion is the Mhakumbh of Science and Religion. Bathing in this dialogue of confluence, human society can transform for good. Hence, we have to churn the sea of Science and Religion to draw amrit that will become light and blessing to humanity.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao