If one were to be transported to a mystical land filled with orange hues reverberating in an orchestra of bells, cymbals, tambourines, conches and fervent chants of “Hara Hara Mahadev”, its none other than the ‘Kumbh Mela’. The idea of Kumbh Mela conjures up the image of enthralling processions, jostling ash smeared people, pious Hindu men and women, and the sacred flowing waters. Words fail to describe the grandiose of the world’s largest congregation of mankind with more than 120 million pilgrims that are inscribed as the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO.
The makeover of a temporary city
Prayagraj in Uttar Pradesh of Northern India is home to the ‘Ardh Kumbh Mela’ for this year. The center under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi and the Uttar Pradesh state government under CM Yogi Adityanath has taken several steps to facilitate the proceedings and ensure that the Kumbh Mela runs smoothly. The motto of the government’s initiatives insists on making the Kumbh Mela a ‘Divya‘ (Divine), ‘Bhavya’ (Grand) and ‘Swach’ (Clean) event.
The logistics in action
For the convenience and guidance of several tourists, historians, researchers, pilgrims and citizens, the government of Uttar Pradesh has launched an all-in-one online service portal – https://kumbh.gov.in/en
The portal has live information, event calendars and links to several visitor services and travel needs. The UP government, led by CM Yogi Adityanath has allocated a whopping amount of Rs 4,236 crores for the festival this year.
With the Kumbh Mela in the forefront, several ministries and departments of the Indian government have put in extra effort this year to coordinate and implement systems for the event. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a new airport complex at Prayagraj’s Bamrauli airport on 16th December 2018. The airport complex has been constructed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI) at a cost of Rs 169 crores. The complex includes four aircraft parking bays and a brand new terminal that was built in less than 11 months.
The State Transport Corporation has dedicated more than 6000 buses for the pilgrims traveling to Prayagraj. The Indian Railways has made temporary stoppage points at Prayagraj for several trains in addition to deploying more than 800 special trains from 14th January to 4th March 2019.
This year, the government has also prioritized the maintenance of sanitation and hygiene throughout the campus. The ministry of Drinking water and Sanitation deployed 1500 ‘Swachhagrahis’ personnel to maintain cleanliness. Apart from 8 kilometers of new bathing ‘ghats’, this temporary city has a range of tents that have turned Prayagraj into a makeshift ‘Tent city’. For elite travelers, there are luxury private tents that charge Rs 30,000 per night.
The Kumbh Mela is just not for the humble and devout spiritualists, but also an opportunity grabbed by hundreds of small scale and large scale private companies for boosting their sales. Several businesses thrive during the holy months of Kumbh Mela as they are set throughout the campus.
The origin of the Kumbh Mela
The first ever recorded Kumbh Mela dates back to the sixth-century treatise. The British Rule witnessed the Kumbh Mela during the month of January in the year 1870. Kumbh Mela is based on an ancient story from the Hindu scriptures. The word “Kumbh” refers to a pitcher. It is said that the good “Devas” and the evil “Asuras” have always struggled to get along with each other, however, there common ambition is to live forever, to be immortal.
The pitcher carrying the nectar of immortality is said to have been carried by the preserver and sustainer of this Universe, referring to one of the three supreme gods “Maha Vishnu”. “Maha Vishnu” ultimately ensured that the nectar of immortality was always rewarded to the good (Devas). It is said that in the process, a few drops of this nectar made its way to four pilgrim destinations in the holy land of India – Praygraj, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. The Kumbh Mela is held once in every 12 years and the Ardha Kumbha Mela is held every 6 years when the Sun and Jupiter are in a specific zodiac alignment.
A celebration of plurality
Prayagraj has been spread out over an area of more than 32 square kilometers, which is bigger than the Vatican City in Rome, known as the Christian Capital of the world.
Several unknown monks and saints who meditate deep in the Himalayas come down to impart knowledge to seekers from different castes and creeds in the congregation. Kumbh Mela fosters an egalitarian spirit with the exchange of thoughts, practices, and insight into inner awakening. India unites for yet another reason and the Kumbh Mela is indeed a celebration of plurality and the Saga continues.
Sources: Kumbh.gov, CNN, Business Today, NDTV
Image Credits: NDTV, KumbhMela