There are big celebrations all over India today. Pongal Festival in the south and lots of kite flying in the north; with giving of sesame sweets and making of new beginnings for projects, businesses, homes.
And in the north of India, the biggest gathering of mankind will begin: The Kumbha-Mela. Not just any Kumbha-Mela, but the 12th yearly Maha Kumbha-Mela. 33 million people gathered in one spot, the biggest festival of spiritual music, theatre, dance, and story-telling ever.
Anyone who is anyone will be there: every group of yogis, saints, philosophers, swamis and teachers – everyone with a message will be there to speak and show what they have to offer to the world. ISKCON, too, will have a large contingent of devotees in a very favourable location. They’ll be serving up prasadam meals round the clock and going out each day in huge sankirtan parties singing the holy name of Krishna. Tens of thousands of Srila Prabhupada’s books will be distributed.
The focus of the Mela for most pilgrims is to bathe in the holy river Ganga at the right time; and the point of that is to guarantee one’s salvation from the cycle of repeated birth and death. And the point of the Vaishnavas being there is to remind everyone of what they already know: that the holy river Ganga flows from the feet of the Lord, and that His divine feet are available at any time, night or day, by bathing in the nectarean river of His names.
The avatar who descended to this world to explain just this fact – Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu – chose Makara Sankranti as his own day for a new beginning. It was the day he became a sannyasi and thereby began his travelling and preaching to the world. And today is the 500th anniversary of that event back in the year 1510.
Happy Makara Sankranti everyone – and Happy New Beginnings to you today!