The Kumbha Mela is the largest religious congregation in India and is attended by millions. The month and a half long fair is marked by the construction of a massive tented township, complete with cottages, huts, platforms, civic facilities, administrative blocks and security measures. This time round, the state of Uttar Pradesh has drawn up an estimated budget of more than `4200 crore for organising this mega religious fair and according to government sources, it will be by far, the costliest Kumbha Mela. The last Kumbh Mela (organised in 2013 - this fair is organised once in three years) was organised at one-third of this year’s estimated expenses.
Legend and history
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu was carrying a Kumbh (pot) of amrit (nectar), when a scuffle broke out and four drops were spilled. They fell to the earth at the Tirthas (a place where the devout can attain salvation) of Prayag, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The event is commemorated every three years by the Kumbh Mela, held at each tirtha in turn. The Ganga Sangam (confluence) is known as Tirtharaj (the king of Tirthas) and here the Kumbha Mela is held once in every twelve years. This is considered the greatest and holiest of all the Kumbha Melas.
The Maha Kumbha Mela held at Allahabad in 2013 generated about Rs. 12000 crore of revenues and created over 6 lakh job opportunities. Airlines, hotels and tour operators witnessed a boom period due to the Maha Kumbha Mela. According to sector-wise break up devised by The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), the Kumbha Mela’s employment generation figures were nearly – 2.5 lakh jobs in hotels, 1.5 lakh jobs in airports and airlines, 50,000 in eco-tourism and medical tourism and 85000 jobs for skilled and unskilled workers for renovation and construction. According to industry estimates, the festival in 2013 generated around 55,000 new jobs in the unorganised sector.
ASSOCHAM also assessed that the Maharashtra state govern-ment generated over Rs. 10,000 crore from the Kumbh Mela held at Nasik from July 14, 2015. The fair at Nasik also generated additional employment opportunities for over 4.5 lakh workers.
According to a state government official who refused to be named, both the central and the involved state governments want the Kumbha Mela to be held at Prayagraj to go beyond religiosity and become a tourism event. The government plans to promote the Kumbha Mela as a destination for tourists and encourage visitors and dignitaries from foreign countries to attend the event. During the Kumbha Mela of 2013, more than 8.5 lakh foreign tourists attended the event.
Sidharth Nath Singh, Health Minister, Government of Uttar Pradesh stated, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to promote the religious congregation as an international event and a destination for tourists as well as pilgrims.”
Special arrangements will be made for the invitees and participants of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, which will be held from January 21-23. Singh added, “Those (of the invitees and participants of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas) who want to take a holy dip at Prayag will be given the opportunity and will be taken there.” For foreign visitors at the Kumbha Mela, there will be 1000 Swiss cottages including luxury ones in the Arail area across the river. Singh said, “These tourists will be brought to the Mela venue by hovercrafts.”
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has informed the media that the state government will invite more than 190 countries for the Kumbha Mela. He stated, “Kumbha Mela is the biggest congregation of culture and faith on earth. Invitations are being sent to 192 countries for the Kumbha Mela. The government is also making arrangements to ensure that at least two people from each of the six lakh villages in the country visit Kumbha.”
Besides promoting the Kumbha Mela, the government has taken measures for its smooth management. Authorities have drawn out a detailed movement and parking plan for convenient approach to and from parking areas, identified and developed holding areas for crowd control, initiated plans to deploy dustbins for solid waste management, engaged of Ganga Praharis and Swacchagrahis for ensuring conservation of the Ganga River and for ensuring community participation.
According to Suresh Kumar Khanna, Minister of Urban Development, Government of Uttar Pradesh, “Over 12 crore pilgrims are expected to visit Prayagraj Kumbh Mela. Around three crore pilgrims are expected on Mauni Amavasya and another 20 lakh pilgrims are expected daily.” In addition, around 10 lakh tourists are expected to attend this religious fair.