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World’s biggest and longest event welcomes tourists

February 25, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Ongoing Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj in Northern India’s Uttar Pradesh state is held for 50 days and attracts more than 200 million visitors, greater than the population of India’s most populous state. Duly recognised by UNESCO as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’, the once in 6 year event held at the Sangam, the confluence of sacred rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayagraj, has set-up modern tent cities this time to accommodate tourists who are heading to this ‘City of Gods’ to witness the rare event of faith, spirituality and tradition.

Dr Ashish Kumar Goel, Divisional Commissioner Prayagraj, said: “Kumbh has been happening for thousands of years. We have upped the scale this year to give a touch of grandeur to this world’s largest gathering. We focussed on enhancing pilgrim and visitor experience. Hygiene, sanitation, safety and security are optimised for all visitors and additionally, we have put-up the mega tent city with modern amenities to facilitate tourists who are curious to come and witness the event.” He added that most of those who come as visitors return as pilgrims, as the positive aura of the holy event encapsulates all.

Legend has it that four drops of Amrit (nectar of immortality) fell on the four sacred rivers of Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayagraj after gods retrieved the sacred pitcher (Kumbh) of Amrit from gods. The corresponding rivers are believed to have turned into Amrit at the cosmic moment, giving pilgrims the chance to bathe in the essence of purity, auspiciousness and immortality. Kumbh city is a purpose built temporary city set-up on the banks of Ganga and Yamuna to facilitate pilgrims that come to purify themselves by taking a dip in the holy waters on astronomically auspicious days of Kumbh Mela. It’s also a time for cleansing of minds and habits in the company of holy men, many of who come into public domain only during this period.

Seven tent cities are erected at the farthest end of the temporary Kumbh city and complimentary battery operated E-rickshaws are provided for commuting to city centre. Each tent city is independent with full fledged five star services provided on vast expanse of land area on the banks of River Ganga. Facilities are in place for interested guests to perform sacred rituals and take holy dips away from usual crowds.

Almost two million people stay at the Kumbh city on an average every day, with equal number of day visitors. Facilities at the mega event naturally turn out to be incredible and a visit is worth, just to be amazed by its grandeur.

Lobby of Indraprastha tent city

A tourist can experience India at Kumbh Mela. Apart from enjoying the faith, austerity and colourful lifestyles of pilgrims, they can get entertained at many cultural pandals (temporary structures) and amusement zones. Handloom and handicraft exhibitions are held at strategic locations and bazaars and vending zones are spread across Kumbh city. The city’s beautiful street art is made possible with ‘paint my city’ campaign on a million square feet of walls along 22 square miles of the area and is supported by famous artists.

A luxury tent at Kumbh

There are 35 Cafe Coffee Days alone among outlets of many food chains at food courts spread across 20 sectors of Kumbh city. The Government has augmented with long term infrastructure too. Mr Goel said: “We have strengthened 50 roads, expanded them from 2 lanes to 4 lanes, have constructed 9 flyovers and 6 under-bridges.” Visitors to Kumbh mela are accommodated on the opposite side of the river banks. Pontoon bridges are erected for visitors to cross-over to the happening side of the banks where holy men are continuously engaged in their rituals.

Waste management and sanitation facilities are made scientific and modern to keep users and cleaners safe and hygienic.

An eco-friendly Ashram at Kumbh Mela

Mr Goel said: “We have put in place more than 100,000 toilets with scientific, modern practices and 24 hour running water facility and are proud to declare it an open-defecation free mela. There’s no disposal, burning or burial of garbage within the mela area. 160 garbage collection vehicles fitted with tracking devices transport out waste to be treated scientifically before disposing. 11,000 cameras are ensuring safety at the mela.  There are enough parking spaces for all vehicles that bring visitors to the mela and it’s planned to be a traffic jam free mela.”

Street plays to create awareness on cleanliness at the event

Mr Goel joked that a visitor has to pardon the authorities if he or she finds a toilet row while taking pictures and selfies, for sanitation at the mega event was a priority. 20,000 sanitation workers clean and maintain toilets round the clock. 100 ambulances are working round the clock and a 100 bed temporary hospital is set-up at the mela. A mega eye hospital with 400 opthalmogists is providing free eye check-up and screening, performing cataract operations and providing spectacles for free.

Happy faces at Kumbh

Kumbh Mela is open to people of all faiths and religions and is among the oldest continuously held events, since it finds a mention in millennia old Hindu scriptures to the recent seventh century travel accounts of Hsuan Tsang, the Chinese traveller and the more recent mention by 19th century traveller Mark Twain.

Colourful Kumbh

The enhanced experience at Kumbh Mela has come-about through additional support from Namami Gange, the mega river cleansing project that’s a pet project of Indian Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. Kumbh Mela will end on 4 March but new standards of modern facilities and security are here to stay and tourists from India and abroad can look forward to visiting the next event. It should only get better, as PM Modi has, just last week, donated the $200,000 Peace Prize money he received from the Government of Republic of Korea to Namami Gange project.

Written by Anand & Madhura Katti

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