Kumbh is the equivalent of Aquarius, the eleventh sign in the Zodiac, and the Kumbh Mela falls every twelfth year at a certain combination of Jupiter, Aquarius, Aries, and the Sun; between each Kumbh occurs the Ardh-Kumbh.
The Maha Kumbha Mela is held once in 12 years at Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik. There are some fixed days during the period of the Mela for bathing, and a bath in the Ganga on those days is considered very sacred. Millions of people assemble here during these months.
Ambrosia or the nectar which confers Immortality was kept in a vessel (kumbha or kalasa). For getting the nectar, here was a tough fight between the Asuras and Devas for 12 days. During the fight, the kumbha fell on the earth four times at Hardwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nasik. At the end of 12 days when Surya (Sun) was on Mesha Rasi and Jupiter in Vrishabha Rasi, Lord Vishnu appeared and brought peace to one and all by distributing the nectar to deserving people. The Mela comes once in 12 years equivalent to 12 days of the Devas. Vishnu Purana says: “A bath in the Ganga on the Kumbha day will give the spiritual benefits of one lac of pradakshina around the earth”. Millions of people assemble at Hardwar for taking a bath in the Ganga on the sacred day.
In olden days Kumbha Melas were started for the moral and spiritual uplift of the people. Many Mahatmas, sages, Yogins and spiritual preceptors who were practising Tapas and silent meditation in the caves of the Himalayas and forests assembled in these places during Kumbha Mela days for imparting spiritual instructions to the thirsty aspirants and householders. There was not much noise in those days. People went, with sraddha and bhav to have darshan of these Mahatmas and to imbibe the teachings of those highly elevated souls. Religious classes were held, kathas and discourses were conducted and lectures were delivered by great men of practical experience. Real, sincere aspirants were initiated into the mysteries of Yoga and Kaivalya.
Though the place may be filled with many sorts of people, yet there are some highly advanced spiritual souls, Mandaleshwars and learned Pundits of the Sanatana Dharma Sabha, who untiringly work and clear the doubts of all aspirants and guide them on the spiritual path. They work for the spiritual good of the public. Again in some silent corners, you will find some great virakta Mahatmas and tyagis. You must hunt out such great souls among the Sadhus, Sannyasins, Yogins and Naga Babas. They will guide you in the right path. Have darshan of such Mahatmas and get spiritual instructions. Then you will be spiritually benefitted.
Grahasthis should not put so many questions as to the previous name, caste, creed, qualifications, relations, age, etc., of Sannyasins. They can talk only on philosophical points with a view to clear doubts. Then and then alone they can be benefitted by satsanga with sadhus. Satsanga is the easiest and quickest means to change the worldly mind towards the spiritual path and to overhaul thoroughly the vicious and wrong samskaras. Live in the company of wise sadhus. The company itself is the spiritual education. Serve them with bhakti and sraddha. Attend to their wants. Get upadesh from them. Then you will have spiritual growth.
When you come to Hardwar for the Kumba Mela, make it a point to finish some lacs of japa during these days (anushthan). Japa, done in holy places on such occasion will have marvellous influence and bestow on you spiritual benefits. For 15 or 30 days observe anushthan. Take milk and fruits only. Do plenty of japa. Study Gita, Upanishads, Ramayana and Bhagavat. Have satsanga and hear the words of great men. Observe mouna. Do not wander hither and thither. You will grow wonderfully by silent rigid sadhana. Do plenty of charity.
Serve the sadhus and Mahatmas. Pray for spiritual instructions. Serve and help the sick persons. There is a very good opportunity for you to do Nishkamya Karma Yoga. Such kind of spiritual sadhana must be practised when you come to this sacred Mela which comes once in 12 years! Generally pilgrimages to all sacred places should be performed with the above discipline. Every year people go to Rishikesh and Hardwar, Badrinath and other places. They should all observe the above discipline and then only they would derive the benefits of performing yatra or pilgrimages.
May God bless you with more energy to do real, sustained, solid sadhana!