Kumbha Sankranti, celebrated on 13 February this year, marks the beginning of the eleventh month in the Hindu Solar Calendar. It signifies the periodic movement of the Sun from one zodiac sign to another. This occasion marks the movement of the Sun from Makara (Capricorn) Rashi to Kumbha (Aquarius). It falls in the Magha month of the Hindu lunar calendar.
There are twelve Sankrantis in the year; Kumbh Sankranti is the 11th among the 12 auspicious Sankranti based on the 12 zodiac signs. All 12 Sankrantis are considered highly auspicious for charity or dan-punya activities.
During Kumbha Sankranti offering to cows are considered highly auspicious. It is believed that taking a bath in the Ganges on Kumbha Sankranti removes the miseries and sufferings of life, eliminates sins, gives freedom from the cycle of rebirths, and attains Moksha.
The Legend of Kumbh Sankranti
Kumba Sankranti is associated with the episode of Samudra Manthan, which is elaborated in the Vishnu Purana that explains the origin of the elixir of eternal life, Amrit.
According to the legend, Sage Durvasa was enraged by Lord Indra and cursed him and all the devas to be deprived of all strength, energy, and fortune. In the battles following the incident, the devas were defeated by the asuras, led by Bali. The devas sought Vishnu's wisdom, who advised them to entreat the asuras diplomatically. The devas formed an alliance with the asuras to jointly churn the ocean for the nectar of immortality.
When the pot (Kumbha) containing the amrit/nectar emerged, fierce fighting ensued between the devas and the asuras for its possession. During this battle, a few drops fell at four sacred places in India: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. The legend states that while the devas were carrying the nectar/amṛit away from the asuras, some drops of the nectar fell at four different places on the Earth: Haridwar, Prayaga, Nashik, and Ujjain. Kumbha Mela is celebrated at these four places every twelve years. People believe one can attain moksha after bathing there during the Kumbha mela.