Kumbh Mela (Simhastha) History
Simhastha is the great bathing festival of Ujjain. It is celebrated in a cycle of twelve years when Jupiter enters the Leo sign of the zodiac, known as Simha Rashi. Ceremonial bathing in the holy waters of Shipra begin with the full moon day of Chaitra and continue in different intervals throughout the successive month of vaishakha culminating on tee full moon day. Tradition calls for ten different factors to be located for the grand festival at Ujjain. According to the Puranas, the legendary churning of the ocean by the gods (Devas) and demons (Danavas) yielded, amongst other things, a jar (Kumbha) full of nectar (Amrita). Gods did not like to share it with demons. At the instance of Indra, the master of gods, his son Jayanta tried to run away with the jar and was naturally followed by some of the demons.
During the struggle for its possession lasting over twelve days in the heaven, a few drops of the nectar dropped at the four places, corresponding with Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain and Nasik on the earth. The Drops of nectar were well received by the holy rivers at these places. It is to commemorate the sprinkling of ambrosia into the sacred waters of Shipra that the Simhastha festival is celebrated at Ujjain. Festival at the other three places are known by the more popular name Kumbha The cycle of twelve Years is common to all the four places. As the struggle for the possession of the nectar-jar (Amrita-Kumbha) lasted for twelve days in the heaven, the corresponding period turned out to be twelve years on the earth, for the human beings.
Different planetary positions, like the crossing of Jupitar into Leo sign and certain other conjunctions for the fair at Ujjain, are noted for the kumbha-fair at these other places also. Besides being a city of remarkable cultural traditions, Ujjain is cited among the seven cities of sacred merit in India. Mahakaleshwar temple and the holy shipra have always attracted countless people to visit Ujjain through out the ages. The crowd of pilgrims and saints of various sects running into millions during the Simhastha presents a picture of mini India at Ujjain and one can well visualise here, as to what invisible forces bind this great Nation together.