Uttar Praedsh is getting ready for one of the massive events of the decades; the Kumbh Mela celebrated once in twelve years at Prayagraj (as Allahabad has been renamed by Yogi Aditynath). This time, only six years have gone by since the past Kumbh was celebrated. So it must strictly be called ardh (or half) Kumbh Mela, but the Yogi government calls it Kumbh just to make capital out of it.
Prayagraj is a place where two rivers-Ganga and Yamuna-meet. But according to legend yet another non-existent river called Saraswati too joins them making for a confluence of three rivers. Owing to this, Kumbh festival which takes place only once twelve years, gets enormous importance and draws devotees form various parts of the North.
Says a correspondent covering the festival, “The biggest gathering of the faithful – 12.15 crores of people are expected – is also a space where economic activity is triggered, creating permanent infrastructure and temporary jobs, and political mantras are uttered. While sadhus are the most visible – going about naked or wearing saffron robe, ochre tunics and rudraksh malas wound around the head like a towering turban – the Kumbh is also a vast, buzzing bazaar of micro-entrepreneurs, from small restauranters to selfie-stick sellers.”
Mohan Giri is a forty year old Naga Sadhu who belongs to one of the 13 Hindu sects that participate in the mela. The Sadhu who generally goes naked has invested Rs.60000 and purchased a motorcycle just to enable him to traverse the kumbh ground for 49 days. Though normally he remains naked wearing nothing but ashes, when he goes round he wears a loin cloth and throws a blanket on his shoulder.
A number of Sadhus are making their way to Prayagaraj in cars and motor bikes, but with practically no belongings. There are makeshift tents to accommodate them, the government having spent Rs. 65 crores on tents. A little away from the bustle of the fair there are luxury tents that claim to have five star hotel facilities.
While airways, railways and bus operators go to the extreme to tender to the needs of the pilgrims who are expected to throng the place in tens of millions, small traders, eatery owners, taxi drivers and auto rickshaw owners are looking forward to making as fast a buck as possible. For many of them it is once in a lifetime opportunity. Uttar Pradesh having a large number of jobless youth, this occasion, when such a lot of money is changing hands, will provide opportunity of keeping themselves occupied with some money earning project or another.
Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his BJP are poised to take advantage of this mela in view of the impending election for the Lok Sabha. Even the renaming of Allahabad as Prayagraj is part of his game plane and is expected to please the Hindutva elements. Besides the conference and meetings held for the Ram Temple, this mela just on the eve of elections is another vote catching device. It is an entirely different matter whether the temple is built on not. But the fraying of tempers and the sensationalism created will certainly turn out to the advantage of BJP. At least that is the expectation on their side.
In the 2014 general election, by lionising Modi and taking advantage of the seeming inaction on the part of the then ruling alliance, the BJP covered 70 of the 80 parliamentary seats in UP, with its ally Apna Dal capturing 2, which assured for the BJP absolute majority in the Lok Sabha. It does not appear to be such an easy cakewalk this time. Disillusionment and dissatisfaction growing throughout the country and the opposition forces trying to come together have made it an uphill task for BJP everywhere to come back to power and UP is no exception.
It is under these circumstances this Kumbh Mela has presented itself on a golden platter and Chief Minister Yogi is determined to make the fullest use of the opportunity. Already he has made the Ardh (semi) Kumbh into Kumbh, increasing its importance so as to draw huge grounds. No doubt Hindutva passion will be whipped up and the message of Hindu consolidation would be sent throughout the state. The possibility of the fringe elements being converted cannot be ruled out.
Anyway the multi dimensional fare has started and would go on with frenzied masses dancing on the streets, sadhus making the most out of the crowds, vendors, merchants and transporters making a quick buck and the unemployed youth coming out of the lethargy and trying to make as much use of the occasion as possible, while the festive mood remains and festivities are on.
Ganga Unsafe? ‘Kumbh Mela dip could be harmful’
A holy dip in the Ganga during Kumbh Mela could be unsafe, as real-time monitoring data from the Central Government show that the river’s water at Allahabad is not fit for drinking and bathing.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitors the Ganga’s water quality in real time at various stations across Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
According to the board’s parameters, whether or not the water is fit for drinking and bathing depends on the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), dissolved oxygen (DO), and acidity.
Data from Allahabad show that the biochemical oxygen demand is in the red category over 10 milligram per litre (mg/1) above the permissible limit. For river water to be fit for drinking and bathing, the BOD would have to be less than 3 mg/1.
Allahabad is hosting Kumbh till March 5, and is expected to receive 12 crore visitors, including many high profile personalities, political leaders and foreign delegates. Many of these people are likely to take a dip in ‘Sangam’ the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.
Source: ‘The New Indian Express’