Prayagraj Kumbh Mela Suprasses Total of 150 Million Pilgrims
The Kumbh Mela, a Hindu pilgrimage occurring once every three years, now stands as the largest recorded gathering of individuals in human history with over 150 million individuals attending over the course of 49 days.
From Jan. 15 to March 4, Hindu pilgrims traveled to the city of Allahabad (officially known as Prayagraj) in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, where they sought to achieve “moksha,” the release from the cycle of rebirth.
Pilgrims of the Prayagraj Kumbh Mela gather where the sacred Ganges and Yamuna rivers converge with the Sarasvati. In the rivers they perform ritual bathing believed to cleanse them of sin in an effort to attain moksha. On Feb. 4th alone, an estimated 10 million bathed.
The dates and locations of the Kumbh Mela are each determined by astrology. The Kumbh Mela is periodically held at locations of Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar and Ujjain, occurring at least four times in a twelve-year cycle.
The Indian government itself has dedicated a significant amount of resources and personnel to constructing and maintaining infrastructure for the Kumbh Mela. This year’s budget for the festival itself reached $397 million. Coinciding with a national election year, the large number of people the festival attracts presented an opportunity for current Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his allies to gain additional political support.
Government preparations for the Mela had taken well over a year to finalize, including the construction of a new airport, the widening of city streets, and the introduction of new car parks and new trains in an attempt to increase the number of people able to find transport to the site.
To accommodate the influx of visitors, a new city, Kumbh Nagari, was built from scratch nearby the banks of the rivers, making space for more marketable lodgings and tourist attractions which were unavailable in previous years.
According to reports from the BBC, an estimated total of 6,000 religious and cultural organizations were present to accommodate the vast crowds of people visiting from across India and the globe. There were five warehouses and 160 ration shops set up to distribute cooking supplies. Free, clean drinking water was available from hundreds of dispensers.
One central hospital and ten smaller hospitals were set up to care for the sick and injured. In addition to hiring 22,000 new sanitations workers, 1220,000 toilets and 20,000 dustin bins were installed to maintain sanitary conditions.
Furthermore, an estimated total of 30,000 law enforcement personnel were employed to maintain traffic order and promote security.