The observance of Kumbha Mela dates back to the Vedic times, before the creation of the universe. There is a legend that speaks for the origin of the Kumbh Mela.
Thousands of years ago, perhaps in the Vedic period, gods and demons agreed to work together for obtaining 'amrita' (the nectar of immortality) from the churning of the Milky Ocean, and to share the things thus obtained, equally.
Nevertheless, when the Kumbha (pot) containing the ambrosia appeared, the demons ran away with the pot and were chased by the gods. There ensued a battle in the skies, for the possession of the pot for twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) between the gods and the demons. It is said that during the battle, drops of 'amrita' fell on to four places: Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. Thus, Kumbha Mela is observed at these four locations, where the nectar fell.
Historically, the origin of the Kumbh Mela can be traced to the river festivals in which pots of grains were soaked in the waters of the holy rivers and put to seed, with the rest of the grain, during sowing time. It has also been considered to be a pre-Aryan fertility ritual, for the Kumbh symbolizes the Mother Goddess and also the womb, the generative pot. Rivers, as givers of life and agents of fertility, became 'tirthas' (holy places) as they act as bridges between heaven and earth, the mortal humans and the eternal divine.
Records of the celebration of this festival go back to the 10th century, where mention is found in various Indian art forms and in writings of Arabian, French and English travellers. The Mela finds mention in the Vedas and also in Ramayana, written by Valmiki. Photographs of the gala event are available from the last fifty years.