East Meets West – Tales From All Traditions

Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013

The city of Allahabad ( City of God in Persian ) in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state prepares for the Hindu festival of Maha Kumbh Mela, 2013. The ancient name of this city is Prayag and is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of four sites of the mass Hindu pilgrimage Kumbh Mela. The Prayag (Allahabad) Kumbh Mela is the largest and holiest of all melas and is believed to be the most auspicious, though the exact origin of the Kumbh Mela is very hard to pinpoint.

kumbh melaThe Purna (complete) Kumbh or Maha Kumbh, the biggest and the most auspicious fair, falls once every 12 years, and is always held in Allahabad. The most recent Kumbh Mela was in 2001 in Allahabad and millions of pilgrims took a holy dip in Sangam on the auspicious Mauni Amavasya on the 24th January 2001.

Kumbh Mela derives its name from the immortal – Pot of Nectar – described in ancient Vedic scriptures known as the Puranas. Kumbha in Sanskrit language means ‘pot or pitcher’. Mela means ‘festival’. So ‘Kumbh Mela’ literally means ‘festival of the pot’. Though the festival is a primitive one, it’s origins can be traced back to the ancient event of ‘Sagar Manthan’.

Tens of millions of pilgrims are expected to visit Allahabad to bathe at the Sangam – the merger point of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers. The main bathing date for the 2013 Allahabad Kumbhmela is 10th Feb.2013.

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The Cathedral du Notre Dame, du Paris

Notre Dame du Paris
Notre Dame du Paris – click to see BBC report

Overview

For centuries it has witnessed the greatest events in French history: 80 kings, two emperors, five republics – and two world wars.

With her original 13th-Century rose window, the cathedral was pillaged and nearly demolished in revolutionary France. Now her famous gargoyles stand guard against evil spirits.

This great Paris cathedral has seen crusaders and kings praying before battle and She survived. This month sees the start of a year of special events celebrating the landmark 850th anniversary of “Our Lady of Paris”.

Foundation

The first stone was laid in 1163, though it took a further 180 years to complete. The principles of sacred geometry used in the Cathedral of Chartres took root here too. Yet, as the magnificent structure took form, history was already playing out in her shadow. Crusaders prayed beneath the world’s first flying buttresses as they set off on holy wars.

Our Lady of Paris

Within these walls, in 1431, a sickly boy of ten, King Henry VI of England, was crowned King of France.

And in 1804, to the sound of the 8,000 pipes of the cathedral’s Grand Organ, Napoleon was crowned emperor.

Music

Music is integral to the life of this cathedral – in the archives, medieval manuscripts reveal it always has been. Recently discovered manuscripts of centuries-old music and chants have been made ready.

Fittingly, then, the great sounds of Notre Dame will be at the heart of the anniversary celebrations.

Throughout 2013, three choirs will bring to life some of the earliest sounds of Christianity.

Choir director Sylvain Dieudonne has said that, “in 1163, when they started building the cathedral, Paris became a centre of great intellectual, spiritual and musical development.

“The musical school was hugely influential,” he said. “We know from the manuscripts we have recovered that it influenced music across Europe – in Spain, Italy, Germany and in England.”

The Festival

The year-long festival would not be complete without a celebration of the architecture. And to mark 850 years, they will be improving the lighting.

The building was not originally designed to include the flying buttresses around the choir and nave, but after the construction began, the thinner walls grew ever higher and stress fractures began to appear as the walls pushed outward. In response, the cathedral’s architects built supports around the outside walls, and later additions continued the pattern.

Today the cathedral stands as a gothic masterpiece.

As this Christmas marks the 850th anniversary of this venerable church, it heralds the start of a year-long celebration of her influence and history in France. For western visitors, this home of Christian traditions will come alive with their performances.

 

 

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