Birth of pilgrimage centres
The fight between good and evil has continued since time immemorial and so has the fight between the gods and demons. However, the gods never wanted to fight, so they remained peaceful and calm. One day, the devas went to Lord Brahma and said, ?We are losing so many of our brothers and sisters in the never-ending war with the demons. If this continues, none of us will be left alive. Please help us.? Lord Brahma told them to approach Lord Vishnu.
Lord Vishnu listened to their story and sympathetically responded, ?If you churn the great milky ocean, you will find a gold pot of nectar. The one who drinks the nectar will be blessed and become immortal. However, you are not strong enough to churn the ocean by yourself. You must seek the help of the demons.?
The gods were in great distress. ?But, Lord Vishnu,? they said, ?if the demons know that the reward for churning will be immortality, they will take the nectar for themselves. Then we will be in still greater trouble. Alternatively, if we hide from them the reason, they will never agree to help us.?
Lord Vishnu assuaged them and told them to simply go and request for help from the demons. So, the gods left the abode of Lord Vishnu and successfully convinced their demon-brothers to help with the task. The churning of the great milky ocean by the gods and demons became a momentous event. Vasuki, the snake, became the rope required for churning. Lord Vishnu himself became a huge turtle, on whose back they could conveniently churn.
So, the fantastic churning began with the hope of divine nectar filling the minds of the gods. After a great deal of effort, what emerged was not nectar, but poison!! The gods and demons knew that in order to continue churning, they could not simply toss the poison aside. Someone had to drink it. Now, who would drink the poison and thereby allow the historic churning to continue? Lord Shiva came forward and offered to drink the poison. The sacrifice Lord Shiva made is an example of why he is called Mahadeva and all the other gods are simply devas.
At last, out of the murky waters emerged fourteen precious jewels. At the end, Lord Vishnu himself appeared, holding the precious kumbh in his hands. However, Indra-the king of the gods-knew that the demons were planning to abscond with the treasure of immortality. So, he immediately signalled to his son, Jayant, who leapt forward, grabbed the pot of nectar and quickly ran away. The demons, however, were stronger and chased Jayant. They pursued him relentlessly. Indra sought help from Jupiter, the Sun, the moon and Saturn to protect his son and preserve the kumbh. The long chase lasted twelve days, which is equivalent to 12 years on Earth. During this chase, which traversed the realm of the Earth, the heavens and the moons, Jayant rested only four times. When resting, he placed the kumbh on the ground and a few drops of holy nectar spilled on to the Earth in each place. These four places have now become the four centres of pilgrimage for the Kumbh Mela.