Kumbha is a word for an Urn. It is a word for an earthen pot. The Hindi word for the pot maker (Kumbhar) is also derived from this root. But why only an earthen pot and why not a metal pot? The reason is incredible. Just go back to the third Avatar of Vishnu. It is called the Boar Avatar. It is coming after the first Avatar that is the Matsya Avatar. The first life form is from the water in the form of a fish. The earth is separated from the ocean by the boar. But this is only symbolic. Boar has the quality and an attribute to separate the earth from the water. And this is only symbolic to say that water and earth are not separate. They are one and the same thing. In the process of evolution, the earth got separated from the oceans. The earth is a solid part of the ocean and the ocean is a liquid part of the same earth. This property and attribute of separation and crystallization is inbuilt in the whole process of evolution. In the same way the attribute of dissolution, melting, and becoming one with the whole is also inbuilt in the whole process of evolution. And this quality is crystallized only through churning and meditation. The separation of the earth from the oceans is a necessity in the further evolution of life from a fish form to a human form. For humans to survive the earth is needed separately. And even water is also needed separately. The fish can live in the water but the same fish can not live on the earth. The human being can live on the earth and also need water separately for that living. We also know that 3/4th of the earth is water and only 1/4th is actual earth. The same principle applies to a human being also. About 75% of the human body is water and only about 25% is non-watery and solid. This is how the five basic elements of creation are born. From nothingness came the Sky. From the Sky emerged Air. From the Air came Fire. From the Fire came Water. And from the Water came the Earth. And from the Water and the Earth the life is born.
Kumbha Mela is only a metaphor for a gathering and to see the unity and oneness. The whole existence is interconnected. And this is an insight of the modern science. It is one whole. Some rivers meet at a place on the earth to become one. The whole separation goes away in that meeting. The meeting of the three rivers is even incredible. This meeting of the three rivers is called Triveni Sangam. This meeting and confluence is very significant. The meeting of the three rivers, Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati is called Triveni Sangam. This is again symbolic for something incredible.
Eventually all the rivers meet and merge in the ocean and become one. This unity is very significant. This oneness is spiritual. This oneness is divine. All separation is because of the perception of the mind. Just think that the ocean is like an Urn or Kumbha. When all the rivers meet there, it is like a Mela. It is like a gathering. In that gathering they all become one. They all become an ocean.
In the same way our body and soul are not two separate things. Our body is like a Kumbha or Urn and the soul is like the water in the Kumbha or Urn. Our body is like the Kumbha (solid and tangible) and our soul is like the water (flowing and intangible). Our body has three layers. These three layers continuously churn to become one. These three layers of our being are: Tamas, Rajas, and Satva. Tamas means non-motion, Rajas means motion, and Satva means the balance. These three layers of our being are like the three rivers named above. When all these three layers meet, merge, and become one with the soul it is like the Triveni Sangam. This oneness is our true being.
This churning is also like the churning of the Kshir Sagar or the Amrit Manthan. We all perceive that the body dies. But this is only a perception of the mind. When we experience or realize the soul, we also experience and realize that the soul is deathless and immortal. The body dies is only a perception. The body is only a perceptible part of the soul. The body is a seen part of the soul and the soul is an unseen part of the same body. They are one and the same and not separate. They are inseparable. All this separation is dissolved in an existential experience of the soul. This existential inner experience is called Enlightenment.
Just take the example of an ocean. In the turbulence of the ocean we perceive that the waves and the ocean are separate. But this is only a perception. When the ocean is silent, the waves of the ocean have disappeared in the ocean. The ocean looks silent and serene. The whole process has become one. The separation was only because of the churning. The same is the case with the ocean of our mind. When the waves in the ocean of our mind arise as thoughts we feel this separation. And in a silent state of the mind when the thoughts are no more the mind and body become one with the soul. This experience gives immense bliss. And this experience becomes a benediction.
Just think what happens when many spiritual people gather at one place on the earth. The spiritual power can become a social power. And we can be able to remove any amount of evil in the society when this social power is backed by the spiritual power. The Kumbha Mela is only a metaphor for this spiritual power in the form of a social power. This is the true significance of the Kumbha Mela.