Mahamaham is a South Indian Kumbamela festival celebrated every 12 years in a small temple-town called Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu, India. Hindus consider taking a holy dip at the Mahamaham tank on the day of Mahamaham as sacred. The festival is celebrated at an interval of around eleven to twelve years. The festival takes place at a particular time as determined by astrological position: during the full moon of the Tamil month of Maasi (February-March) when the conjunction of the moon with the lunar asterism (Magha Nakshatra) and when Jupiter is in the constellation of Leo. The festival lasts for nine days. During this festival, lakhs of Hindu devotees come to Kumbakonam, and take bath in a tank named Mahamaham tank. Some of them instead of taking bath in the tank, sprinkle water from the tank on their bodies.
It is believed that taking bath or sprinkling water of the tank on the bodies cleanses all the sins. Mahamaham has so far been celebrated five times since Independence.
- 1956 K. Kamaraj headed the government
- 1968 C.N. Annadurai headed the government
- 1980 the State was under President's rule
- 1992 J. Jayalalitha headed the government
- 2004 J. Jayalalitha headed the government
Instances of celebration of Mahamaham are found in records down the centuries, right from the Chola period to the British rule, under which substantial funds were sanctioned for the festival.
20 Theertham with in the Mahamaham Tank are:
1. Vayu Theertham
2. Ganga Theertham
3. Bramma Theertham
4. Yamuna Theertham
5. Kubera Theertham
6. Godavari Theertham
7. Eshana Theertham
8. Narmada Theertham
9. Saraswathi Theertham
10. Indira Theertham
11. Agni Theertham
12. Cauvery Theertham
13. Yama Theertham
14. Kumari Theertham
15. Niruthi Theertham
16. Bayoshni Theertham
17. Deva Theertham
18. Varunai Theertham
19. Sarayu Theertham
20. Kanya Theertham
On the occasion of the festival, a metal image of the deities of the main temples of Kumbakonam is carried on palanquins or chariots and taken around the different streets of the town.
The Mahamaham Festival occurs when the sun is in the Zodiacal sign of Aquarius (Khumbha), Jupiter transists Leo (Simha) and the Moon is in conjunction with the constellation Maham. The festival comes off once in 12 years.
Siva Linga around the Mahamaham Tank are:
The festival was celeberated on February 2, 1968, March 1, 1980, February 22,1992. The last Mahamaham was celebrated on March 6, 2004, with people from various places taking the holy dip in the Mahamaham tank.
The next Mahamaham will be celebrated in the year 2016.