India has shown to the world that it is able manage sanitation and waste disposal programme on a large scale. The test for this was in large traffic and crowd management plan and cleanliness drive at the recently concluded vast conclave of religious gathering, Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj in the country's largest state, Uttar Pradesh.Kumbh mela attracts millions of pilgrims from across the country and abroad, including devotees, sadhus (holy men) from various sects of Hindus and curious visitors.
Designated as "Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity" by UNESCO during its 12th session held at Jeju in South Korea in December 2017, Kumbh 2019 could soon prove its worth by entering Guinness World Records for three specific reasons - the largest crowd management, largest sanitation drive and largest painting exercise at public sites.
The 49 days long biggest religious congregation on earth at Prayagraj that began on January 15 (the day of solar ingress in Capricorn sign) formally concluded on March 4, the holy day of Shivaratri.A three-member team from the Guinness World Records visited Prayagraj for the purpose. Exercises at a large-scale were performed before the team for four days, from February 28 to March 3.
"Around 503 shuttle buses were pressed into service on the highway in one go for the team on February 28. Several people participated in a painting exercise on March 1 and 10,000 sanitation workers engaged in cleaning at the Kumbh, all performing their duties together," the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.
The host state of Uttar Pradesh successfully set a record for the "Longest Parade of Buses" lining up 500 buses in a row for nearly two miles. It also set a new record for "most contribution in hand painting in 8 hours."
Prayagraj (earlier called Allahabad) is situated at the confluence of rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the invisible stream of Saraswati. Dip in the river at Kumbh mela is considered sacred by the people of Hindu faith.References to Kumbh are found in various Purana texts (Hindu mythology). The determination of the timing of the Kumbh is, however, based on astronomical calculations.
When the planet Jupiter enters the zodiac sign Taurus and this coincides with the Sun and the Moon in Capricorn, this phenomena indicate Kumbh mela to be observed in Prayagraj. Apart from Prayagraj, Kumbh is observed in other three places namely Haridwar in Uttarakhand, Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh and Nasik in Maharashtra.
Kumbh is held in Haridwar on the bank of river Ganga when Jupiter enters Aquarius and the Sun and the Moon in Aries. When Jupiter enters Leo and the Sun is in Aries, Kumbh is celebrated at Ujjain on the banks of river Kshipra. Kumbh is held in Nasik on the banks of the river Godavari when Jupiter is in Leo and the Sun and Moon enter Cancer on New Moon or Amavasya
Maha Kumbh mela is held at an interval of 12 years. Such Maha Kumbh Mela was held in 2013 at Prayagraj. However at the interval of six years Ardha Kumbha mela are held at designated places as per planetary positions. Kumbh 2019 is Ardha Kumbh mela.
The ageless tradition of Kumbh finds mentions in the writings of the ancient Chinese traveller Hsuan Tsang. Earlier, the management of the Kumbh mela was in the hands of Akharas or different sects of sadhus who oversaw the collection of taxes, policing and judicial duties. However the management was taken over by the British colonial rulers in 1870 after the occurrence of stampede and chaos. Since then the management of the Kumbh is with the Government.
Among the various religious practices, the principal one is the holy dip or Maha Snan (Great Bath). During Mughal rule a royal decree was issued for establishing the order of precedence in bathing during auspicious period at the confluence of rivers. Thus the holy dip or Maha Snan came to be known as Shahi Snan (Royal Bath).
Following Shahi Snans took place this year -- Makar Sankranti (January 15), Paush Poornima - Full Moon day of the lunar moth Paush (January 21), Mauni Amavasya - New Moon day (February 4), Basant Panchami (February 10), Maghi Poornima (February 19) and Maha Shivratri (March 4).
In this year's Kumbh an estimated 240 million people took a holy dip in the confluence of rivers as compared to 120 million in the Maha Kumbh of 2013 India's iconic Kumbh in 2019 has many firsts associated with it, like inauguration by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Ganga Aarti, visit of VIPs including President of India, ambassadors of 70 countries, citizen from 193 countries and opening up of Saraswati Koop and Akshay Vat for public view after 450 years.
The host state Uttar Pradesh had made excellent arrangements for sanitation by putting in place 1,22,000 toilets and 20,000 dustbins besides deploying 140 tippers and 40 compactors for ensuring solid waste management. About 1000 sanitation workers were pressed to duty alongwith 12,000 security personnel on duty to maintain law and order.
A foolproof arrangement was made for the first time, under which garbage was lifted from dustbins and toilets through latest technique preventing it from scattering on the ground, collecting it in a compactor by Tata S vehicles and taking it out of the mela (fair) area for proper disposal and processing. The work of sewer connection and setting up of pumping station by laying 177 km sewer lines was completed.
To keep the river water clean in the mela area, 32 drains opening in the river Ganga have been sealed and four schemes are being implemented in Prayagraj under Namami Gange Programme. Arrangements were made to treat river water through bio-remediation so that no effluent pollutes the rivers in Prayagraj.
With a view to ensure proper crowd management the Uttar Pradesh state government had constructed new flyovers in the city, over bridges, expanded roads and brightened the mela area by installing over 40,000 LED lights and about 1400 CCTV camera integrated to a central command and control system. The conception of linking Prayagraj with all the three routes - air, road and waterways - was fully realised.
The Inland Waterways Authority set up five jetties, facilitating operation of large cruises and motor boats. A new air civil terminal was constructed in Prayagraj. A number to tent cities and food courts were set up for comfortable stay.Thus the iconic Kumbh has set an example of large scale sanitation drive and large crowd management
The writer is a senior columnist based in New Delhi, India
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