Photo Courtesy: CNN
By Sucharita Sen
The spell – binding festival, attracting pilgrims and tourists across the world comes to a close on the 10th of March 2013. The 55 – day long Maha Kumbh Mela invited elaborate security arrangements especially after the recent twin blasts in Hyderabad to thwart any possible terrorist attacks and stampedes during the occasion.
The last day of the holy pilgrimage will see the devouts perform the ‘Rudrabhishekha’, wherein the ‘Shiva Linga’ will be worshipped by pouring milk and honey on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri. Marking the end of the mela, about 50 lakh devotees are expected to plunge in the ‘holy ganges’. During ‘Mauni Amavasya’, lakhs of devotees took part in the ‘holy dip’ as it marks the second ‘shahi snan’ of the sadhus. This day is marked by moments of silence (maun) observed by the elders during their rituals, and also by the sight of swords and spears wielding ‘Naga’ ascetics moving about with ash smeared over their bodies.
“A martial order of ascetics who move about either naked or scantily clad with matted hair and ash smeared bodies, marched to Sangam in processions with their leaders perched atop ornately decorated elephants, horses and chariots and musical bands in attendance in a unique blend of austerity and opulence,” quoted Times of India.
Significance of Maha Kumbh
Observed once in every 12 years, the Kumbh Mela witnesses the largest congregation of ascetics, devotees and foreign tourists in Allahabad who come for a holy dip in the Ganges, which they believe will help them seek salvation from sins. The Maha Kumbh this year is likely to be remembered for the largest turnout of about three crore pilgrims, this being a mass pilgrimage that happens after every 144 years, with the exact date and length of the festival determined by astrology.
With its roots in a Hindu tradition, the Maha Kumbh is held in Allahabad at the point where Ganga and Yamuna converge with the mythical river, Saraswati and is thus popularly known as Sangam. The tradition says that Lord Vishnu wrested a golden pot from demons containing the nectar of immortality and in this fight for possession, four drops fell on Earth, in the cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik. The Maha Kumbh Mela at Allahabad is still considered to be the holiest of them all.
Separation in the Festival of Unity
The holy festival began on the 14th of January 2013 at Prayag, Allahabad but what started off as an occasion for rejoice has been a nightmare. The unprecedented crowd has resulted in a massive rush that has separated several families. While the administrative body and some volunteers are working to find and reunite them with their families, recent reports have confirmed 2,75,000 missing people. Authorities witnessed huge rush of people desperately searching for their loved ones in the lost and found centres at Prayag.
The stampedes during the occasion, not only at the Kumbh area but also at Allahabad junction railway station have claimed 38 lives. The situation was brought to control, but not before some pilgrims died of suffocation.
Amid all the heavy security arrangements and tight vigil by the Anti-Terrorist Squad, the congregation also met with a number of fire incidents, the most severe of them taking place on January 25, killing seven people. The stampedes and fire incidents have taken over 45 lives during the Maha Kumbh.
A Politico – Religious Affair
The Kumbh was also marked by the intervention of political activities such as the speculations regarding Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi declared as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Sangh Parivar group.
The gathering included high – profile figures such as Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Asaram Bapu, Anil Ambani, Ekta Kapoor and BJP Member, Rajnath Singh. Seeing the VIP turnover at the festival, parts of the Ganges were divided, where the VIP ghats were cordoned off for the common populace.
While there is a vast majority of poor people lying on the roads as the day ends at the Kumbh, there are luxury camps built only for the rich and famous.
A Spectacle of Dizzying Spirituality
The ‘holy Ganges’ is considered the giver and taker of life, and is worshipped as the almighty. Some pilgrims spend all their money to reach the Kumbh, in the belief that their prayers would come true.
The Maha Kumbh undoubtedly opens up a spectacular view where the power of humanity meets the power of spirituality.