At 6.16 am, as the sun rose over the horizon, the guest of honour at Kumbh Mela inauguration, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, was called to the podium at the Trimbakeshwar shrine to perform the seemingly simple task of hoisting a unique flag made out of brass. All he had to do was deftly lock it to the pole.
The minister attempted to do so but failed. Immediately, a dozen pandits appeared to lend a helping hand, but the flag just wouldn’t fit in. The devotees numbering in thousands were getting impatient even as they jostled for a foothold.
Finally, after a marathon session of pushing and pulling, the goal was achieved. The Simhasta Kumbh Mela 2015 officially commenced, and the place came alive with cries of “Bam Bam Bhole”.
The brass flag that now adorns the ghat of Trimbakeshwar is no ordinary article. It weighs around a kilo and doesn’t flutter. But that is not the only unique aspect of the flag. Breaking the tradition of getting the flag knitted locally, for the first time it has been brought from neighbouring Gujarat. “Owing to the Kumbh Mela, massive infrastructure projects took shape in Nashik. The Purohit community was always fascinated by the intrinsic artwork of the Somnath temple. Through the masons, we learnt that the Somnath Temple was made by members of the Sompura community in Ahmedabad. We then got in touch with them and placed an order for the flag in May,” Satish Sukal of the Ganga Godavari Purohit Sangh told The Indian Express. “They took one month to make the flag,” he added.
The Rs 3.5-lakh brass flag will be an added attraction for the devotees. “Brass is one of the purest metals. The design on the flag has not been altered but the workers have done a fabulous job with the symbols carved on it,” said Sukal.
One side of the flag has the symbol of a lion signifying the Simhastha Kumbh Mela. Depending on what position the Sun, Moon and Jupiter hold in that period as per different zodiac signs, the venue for the Kumbh Mela is decided. So, when Sun and Jupiter are in Leo during the Hindu month of Bhadraprada (August-September), the Kumbh is held at Nashik. Hence, the name Simhastha Kumbh. The other side has symbols of Shree, Kumbh (pot) and an Om designed from left to right. “The Shree represents peace, the Kumbh is a symbol of the nectar that was won by the gods in their war with the demons and the Om refers to the sound of the Brahmand (universe),” explains Purohit.
While the brass flag is from Gujarat, the cloth flag hoisted at Ramkund in Nashik by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was sourced locally.
Drugesh Khairnar (24), who runs a tailoring shop next to Ramkund, always fancied the idea of making the flag for the Kumbh. “Many a times I approached the Purohit Sangh and gave them a demonstration of various art works that could be included on the flag. The day I got the contract, I was on cloud nine ,” said Khairnar. “I use cloth, stones and embroidery work to make the saffron flag,” he added.
While the Kumbh formally commenced on Tuesday, the 13 akhadas constituting the participating sadhus will hold a similar ceremony on August 14, which they claim to be the actual beginning of the festival.