Rivers have always held a special place in Hindu mythology, as these are considered to be the carriers of life and fertility. Hence the rivers always remain a part of almost all major festivals in India. One of the festivals which are worth mentioning in this context is Kumbh Mela. This fair is perhaps the largest religious gathering in any religion around the world. A vast number of people gather at different places and perform different rituals on this day by the banks of different rivers. The name Kumbh Mela consists of two words, the literal meaning of the name of the festival is, "Kumbh" which means a pitcher or a pot, the word Kumbh also signifies a Hindu sun sign, Aquarius. The word Mela means a fair or a gathering.This is a fair which is conducted at four different places of India on the banks of pious rivers. The places where the mela is conducted are Haridwar, on the banks of river Ganges; Ujjain by the river Shipra; Nasik by the river Godawari and at Allahabad by the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati. During the festival the banks of these rivers become a large bathing ground for the rich, the poor, the sadhus and the women alike. For each place the Kumbh Mela repeats every 12 years, but in actuality there are four different Kumbh Melas which take place at different sites. For e.g. if the Kumbh Mela is taking place in Prayag in the year 2011 then the next Kumbh Mela will take place at Ujjain.
Though all the Kumbh Melas enjoy almost similar quantity of devotees but the name of Haridwar comes at the top of all Indian pilgrimages. Hence the Kumbh Mela of Haridwar enjoys exceptional media coverage and Tourist traffic. The place is termed as the gateway to heaven in Hindu mythological scriptures. The Myth behind the celebration of Kumbh Mela goes like this, after the Deva-Asura war, which went on for quite some time, both the involved parties came to a conclusion that they instead of fighting should come together and churn the milky ocean to obtain the Elixir. The sea was churned and elixir was obtained but it was not meant for the Asura or the demons hence the god who appeared from the sea with the Kumbh or the pitcher of elixir ran from the chasing Asuras. In this chase a few drops fell on earth and now at these four places the Kumbh Mela is conducted.
Though The procedure through which the dates of the mela are calculated requires the position of the sun, moon and Jupiter and how this fall in line with the Zodiac each Mela falls in. Aries is the Zodiac sign that Haridwar is associated with. The last Kumbh Mela was celebrated in Haridwar from Makar Sankranti i.e. 14 January 2010 to Shakh Purnima Snan, 28 April 2010. The date of next Kumbh Mela which will be held in Haridwar in the year 2022 is still to be worked out by the astrologers.