The Kumbh Mela festival originates from the
story of the churning of the ocean :
long time ago the gods and demons made a concerted effort
to churn the ocean to extract its elixir, the amrit or the
water of life. They both desired immortality, which only the
water of life could bestow. First they extracted 12 precious
objects, then the divine medicine man, Dhanwantari,
emerged from the ocean with a pot of amrit, or nectar.
had to distribute the amrit equally among gods and demons,
assumed the form of Mohini, a beautiful woman, and through
sleight of hand, she gave the demons varuni, or liquor, while
the gods got the amrit. The demons, however, caught on to
the deception and grabbed the amrit kumbh, or pot of elixir.
During the quarrel, some drops of the elixir
fell on the earth. Jayant, the son of Indra,
removed the pot from the quarreling gods and demons and ran
away with it. He rested at four places in India, where he
set down the pitcher, drank a little, and let a few drops
of nectar spill to the ground. Where these drops landed became
the four sacred sites of Kumbha Mela, but where the earlier
drops fell on the earth, from the jostling of the pitcher,
became the precious gem mines.
Another story relates how Garuda,
the sacred mount of Vishnu, spilled the amrit four times at
the four places where the Kumbh Mela festival is now held.
His journey took 12 days, equalling 12 years for mortals.
More complete story of The
Churning of the Ocean.