Tuesday 19 March 2013

Millions take their bath here

The Kumbh Mela in India is a matchless congregation of devout Hindus and it has no peer anywhere else in the world. It is the largest gathering of people for a religious purpose and the largest gathering on the banks of the river.
As if this is not enough, it also is the largest gathering of people taking bath in a river and then going to a temple to pray. The Kumbh melas of Allahabad and Nasik are world famous and they draw millions of visitors.
The Kumbh in Allahabad this time is expecting anywhere between 80 million to 90 million devotees. Generally the Kumbh is held every third year in rotation at one of the four pre-designated places of  Haridwar, Allahabad or Prayag, Nasik and Ujjain.
Thus the Kumbh Mela comes to one of  the four places every twelfth year. Another Kumbh is the Ardh  or half  Kumbh Mela which is held at only two places- Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year.
The Purna Kumbh mela is held only at Allahabad every 12 years and the Maha Kumbh, again at Allahabad, every 144 years.
The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges or Ganga in Haridwar, the confluence or Triveni Sangama of the Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godavari at Nasik and the Shipra at Ujjain.
Though there is no scientific method of ascertaining the exact number of pilgrims, estimates of the number of pilgrims, including sadhus, heads of mathas and people bathing on the most auspicious day may vary; approximately 30 million people bathed on one day alone- February 10, 2013. You see, that day was Amavaysa and Hindus consider a dip in the river on that day to be holy.
The first written record about the Kumbh is in the writings of Huang Tsang during the reign of Harshavardhana. He visited Indian between 629 AD and 645 AD. However, the Puranas date the Kumbh to the Samudra Manthana episode and records of such bathing events are mentioned in Bhagavatha Purana, Vishnu Purana, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
The temporary tented city, that comes up adjacent to the river, is also the largest in the world and it is fully occupied from January to mid March 2013.
Over a lakh workers in Allahabad built 165 kms of roads, 18 bridges, provided thousands of fresh water connections, toilets, 200,000 electrical connections. The tent city can accommodate a minimum of  2 million pilgrims.
Make no mistake. The manmade tent city is a fully functional city with its own court house, police station and even administration. The roads in the tented city are lined with nationalized banks, post offices, mobile service providers, hotels, restaurants, bus and railway reservation counters, gas agencies, radio station.
Of course you cannot except nationalized banks to function from tents. Can you?
These banks operate from plywood structures. The court house has a judge posted who decided on offences committed in the mela area. He hands out punishment and the culprits are promptly whisked away by the anxiously waiting police.  
A district collector, superintendent of police, senior medical officer, chief engineer and a high-level group headed by a minister takes care of the Kumbh arrangements. There are 30 police stations with thousands of policemen in attendance.
The tent city has plumbers, electricians, builders, securitymen, divers, boatmen and even people specially designated to clear garbage. No wonder, it is the largest city on the world in terns of population density.   
The township has 156 km of steel-plated roads, 18 pontoon bridges, 980 km of electricity wires, 550 km of water pipelines and apart from all this a budget of Rs.1,200 crore. The electrical wires  connect 22,000 streetlights and provide 140,000 free connections to the akhadas and establishments of sadhus and matha. Of course the State Government  foots the Rs.4 crore electricity bill for the duration of the Kumbh.
One more thing. With millions wandering in and around the tent city, there cannot be any black out, power failure or even grid failure. The lights are turned on with clockwise precision every day and they will remain so till the end of the Kumbh. The power  system was so designed that the lines carried no more than 50 per cent of their capacity. Each of the 22,000 street light cluster was given a source to draw power from two different devices. In case, one of the power lines broke or did not function, the clusters had am  automatic three-second switch-time. The points were then connected to giant generators, and every second light cluster was run round-the-clock on these generators so that the mela would be lit even if there was a national grid failure.
There are 18 giant pontoon bridges to accommodate the teeming millions and so far the bridges have held and there has not been any major mishap. A total of 1,537 pontoons were needed for the bridges to be put into place. This also has to be the place with the largest number of toilets on earth-a mindboggling 35,000.
The total area of the Mela premises is 50.83 square kilometers and this is more than 200 times the area of Vatican City, which is considered to be the world’s smallest country
A temporary metropolis, conjured out of thin air, it will be dismantled after 55 days. And till it is dismantled, it will remain the world’s biggest City. Hats off to the people who made it happen. It shows India, if it want, can get going and even a State like Uttar Pradesh can show the way. Right.

No comments:

Post a Comment