Making of a Brand: Kumbh at Prayag!

(Graffiti art at a street in Prayagraj under the Paint My City Competition) 

India, the land of god and goddess, diverse yet rich in its culture, heritage and religious hegemony, nucleus of divinity, spiritual and mythological home of world standing tall from last two thousand years is today world’s biggest democracy and quintessential power in the multipolar world. Children in India will grow in the world’s fastest growing economy and yet know what it means to be born in one of the oldest civilizations of the world.

India over years has kept its religious values intact with its accommodative nature for others. It has been a perfect example of old Sanskrit philosophy “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” meaning world is one family. It has not only maintained the mythological history but over a period of time, a pinch of modernization viz. economic benefits, art gallery, plural politics and huge investment has led to the creation of ‘capitalist branding’ of the Hinduism which was never thought of before. Consequently, the religious festivity in the nation is in full swing owing to the celebrated and much awaited event, Ardh Kumbh Mela of 2019 in Prayagraj (previously known as Allahabad) from 15 January 2019.

(Selfie Point located on the bank of Ganga made by the government)

History of Kumbh

It is the power of faith that can part a river, move mountains, and endure the hardships that come bundled up for being an integral part of Kumbh Mela, a congregation of millions, gathered together to be freed from the vicious earthly cycle of life and death and move towards a heavenly realm, which knows no suffering or path

The official website of Kumbh Mela 2019 quite convincingly defines it as a channel to be freed from the vicious cycle of life and death and it couldn’t be more accurate, the mythological history of India tangled with the quest of divinity with the holy dip in Ganga.

Legend has it that in the mythological times, during a waging war between the demigods and demons for the possession of elixir of eternal life, a few drops of it had fallen on to four places that are today known as Prayag, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nasik. It is believed that these drops gave mystical powers to these places. It is to make oneself gain on those powers that Kumbh Mela has been celebrated in each of the four places since long as one can remember.

(Cultural show going on in one of the pandals made by the government) 

The normal Kumbh Mela is held every 3 years, the Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela is held every six years at Haridwar and Allahabad (Prayag) while the Purna (complete) Kumbh mela takes place every twelve years, at four places Prayag (Allahabad), Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik, based on planetary movements. The Maha Kumbh Mela is celebrated at Prayag after 144 years (after 12 ‘Purna Kumbh Melas’).

Kumbh at Prayagraj

Kumbh at Prayag is not only different and pious as ascribed in Vedas but Kumbh Mela 2019 has been different in terms of grandeur and monumental effort of the state government to identify India again as a land of mythology and extract lucrative economic benefits. This Kumbh Mela has seen overhauling of the city in many ways like broadening of roads, construction of flyovers, graffiti arts and even renaming it to Prayagraj to give mythological appeasement and attraction to people from around the globe. Thousands of crore are being invested to make it a well-organized, tourist-friendly and remarkable Mela. Hence, with the phenomenon what Kumbh is, it is actually a right thing to do, branding and leveraging it to yield out maximum socio-economic benefits. At a macro level. the entire event sends out a strong message, especially to the Hindu community. Not to forget, the nation will also be electing its next Prime Minister in coming few months.

(Ganga bridge alighted in the night) 

The buzz of Kumbh has been such that 15-20 crore devotees are expected to take a dip in sacred Sangam. It is reported that almost all nearby hotels are occupied for this 55-day long festivity. Indian railway is to expect the highest rush of passengers in Prayag. Not only this,  taking note of this, recently air connectivity of the holy city has also been established with other major cities.

The state government has on estimate spend close to 5000 crore rupees to make this experience omnipotent for the devotees and tourists. This huge investment is another reflection of adding the flavor of modernization and capitalism for promoting Hindu mythology. In the furtherance of attracting huge tourism, the government has also identified it as diplomatic and governance oriented avenue. Diplomats from around 85 countries paid a visit to Prayag last month as part of Kumbh Mela.

(Members of different Hindu akhadas participating in the Kumbh)

For maintaining cleanliness and hygiene and to host an open-defecation-free Kumbh, more than one lakh toilets have been planned to be deployed. These will be complemented by modern techniques for waste management. Task forces for monitoring the waste management at Kumbh will also be deployed by the UPPCB and National Ganga Mission. Solid waste is to be collected in 20,000 dustbins and will be transported out of the Mela area by tippers and compactors. With this, the National Swachh Bharat Mission also gets promoted heavily.

To provide a truly divya and bhavya experience, the Mela area is being lit by setting up more than 40,700 thousand LED lights.

To facilitate tourists, a city of 4,200 premium tents are being established on PPP (Public Private Partnership) mode. This tent-city will also be the hub of cultural events. In order to facilitate pilgrims, pandals are being set up in each sector. For hosting cultural programs on a mega scale, the Ganga pandal is being set up. Convention halls are being built across the mela area. Some of the innovative attractions at Kumbh will include theme-based Entrance Gates, Laser Shows, Paint My City Campaign and Heli-tourism.

Before Kumbh kick-starts, the city is already in celebrating and in the mood of joy and happiness. The over bridges, public places, railway stations and bus depots are all converted into art gallery reflecting the richness and deep history of Hindu culture.

(All photos are taken from the official website of Kumbh Mela 2019, Government of Uttar Pradesh)


Anubhav Kumar Author

The writer is a Deputy Editor with TA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *