Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparva derives its name from the ‘Pot of immortality’ or ‘Amrit Kund’ as it is known in the VED. Amrit Kund is mentioned in scriptures like Bhagavata Purana, Vishnu Purana, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. It is believed that during ‘Samundra Manthan’, a pot of nectar was found.
Legend has it that churning of ocean by Devas (Gods) and Danavas (Demons) yielded a jar (Kumbh) full of Amrit (nectar). Gods did not wish to share it with demons. At the instance of Lord Indra, the King of Gods, his son Jayanta tried to run away with the jar but he was followed by some of the demons.
During the struggle for its possession, a few drops of the nectar dropped at 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. Kumbh is held at each of the three places namely Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Simhasth Kumbh Mahaparv is held at Ujjain once every 12 years. Millions of devotees come to take a bath in the holy Rivers to wash off their sins . The devotees believe this to be an opportunity to get ‘moksha’ (salvation) and put an end to the never ending cycle of birth-death-rebirth.
All kinds of herbs were cast into the ocean and fourteen Ratnas (gems or treasures) were produced from the ocean and were divided between asuras and gods. Though usually the Ratnas are enumerated as 14, the list in the scriptures ranges from 9 to 14 Ratnas. Most lists include: According to the quality of the treasures produced, they were accepted by Vishnu, the devas, and the asuras.
There were three categories of Goddesses, emerged from the ocean.
- Lakshmi, the Goddess of Fortune and Wealth – who accepted Vishnu as Her eternal consort.
- Apsaras, various divine nymphs like Rambha, Menaka, Punjisthala etc. – chose the demigods as their companions
- Varuni or Sura, goddess and creator of alcohol – taken – somewhat reluctantly (she appeared dishevelled and argumentative) – accepted the demons.
Likewise, three types of supernatural animals appeared.
- Kamadhenu or Surabhi(Sanskrit:kāmadhuk), the wish-granting divine cow – taken by Vishnu, and given to sages so ghee from her milk could be used in sacrifices.
- Airavata, and several other elephants, taken by Indra, leader of the devas.
- Uchhaishravas, the divine 7-headed horse – given to the demons.
There were three valuables.
- Kaustubha, the most valuable jewel in the world, worn by lord Vishnu.
- Parijat, the divine flowering tree with blossoms that never fade or wilt – taken to Indraloka by the devas.
- Sharanga, A powerful bow – symbolic of the demon’s belligerence.
Additionally produced were.
- Chandra, the moon which adorned Shiva’s head
- Dhanvantari, the doctor of the gods with Amrita, the nectar of immortality. (At times,
considered as two different Ratnas)
- Halahala, the poison swallowed by Lord Shiva
This list varies from Purana to Purana and is also slightly different in the epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata.The list of ratnas includes.
- Shankha, Vishnu’s conch
- Jyestha – the goddess of misfortune
- the umbrella taken by Varuna
- the earrings given to Aditi, by her son Indra
- Kalpavriksha plant
- Nidra or sloth