People were washing their sins in the holy rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati River, Sarayu, Godavari River, Mahanadi River, Narmada River, Pavoshnl and Kaveri River. These rivers wanted to get rid of their sins and approached Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma advised these rivers that if they meet together and take bath in Mahamaham, it would wash off all the sins. Hence, during the time of Mahamaham festival, it is also believed that taking bath in the holy stream of water from the famous rivers like Ganges, Yamuna, Sarasvati River, Sarayu, Godavari River, Mahanadi River, Narmada River, Pavoshnl and Kaveri River, which are mixed together in Mahamaham tank, would get rid of sins according to Hindu religion.
Mahamaham bathing festival is concentrated on a single day, the concourse of pilgrims being all the more. During this festival, thousands of Hindu devotees come to Kumbakonam, and take bath in a tank named Mahamaham tank, generally followed or preceded by a dip in the kaveri river at Kumbakonam. The tank has 20 holy wells. These wells are named after 20 holy rivers flowing across India. People take a dip in these wells. These wells are also called as “Theertham” (Holy water).
Mahaamaham festival – Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu
The Mahaamaham tank
On the banks of the Mahaamaham tank, there are 16 small mandapams (4 in the north, 3 in the west, 3 in the south, 2 in the east and 1 each in the diagonals) housing a Lingam each.
There are 20 theerthams in the tank & bathing in the waters of each theertham rids of a specific sin & bestows a specific blessing.
The 20 theerthams in the Mahaamaham tank
1. Indra Theertham – provides moksham
2. Agni Theertham – rids Brahmahatthi dosham
3. Yama Theertham – rids fear of death
4. Nruthi Theertham – rids from fear of evil spirits
5. Varuna Theertham – provides long life
6. Vaayu Theertham – rids diseases
7. Gubera Theertham – provides prosperity
8. Isaana Theertham – moksham (to reach Lord Siva’s feet)
9. Brahma Theertham – pacifies ancestors
10. Gangai Theertham – provides Kailasa padavi
11. Yamuna Theertham – provides wealth
12. Godavari Theertham – fulfills wishes 13. Narmada Theertham – provides physical strength
14. Saraswathi Theertham – provides Gnaanam (enlightenment)
15. Cauveri Theertham – provides knowledge
16. Kumari Theertham – blessings to pets
17. Payodini Theertham – provides joy
18. Sarayu Theertham – removes mental strain
19. Arubathaaru(66)kodi Theertham – removes grief & provides hapiness
20. Deva Theertham / Naaga Theertham – rids of all sins & provides Devendra’s post / rids of Kaala Sarpa dosham
After a dip in the Maamaham tank, devotees should take a dip in the Potraamarai kulam & the Cauvery river to complete the ritual.
The sixteen Siva lingams in the sixteen mandapams around the Mahamaham tank