Festival of Civilisation
Organiser   16-Jan-2019
Prayagraj is ready for the Kumbh. All the arrangements have been made keeping the spiritual & cultural aspects in mind. Not only the pilgrims coming from outside, but the locals also feel the difference. A ground zero report: 
The historic city of Prayagraj, which reclaimed its original identity after several centuries on January 1, 2019 when the Central Government approved the October 17, 2018 order of Uttar Pradesh government on renaming it, is ready to welcome the devotees from across the world. As one lands at Prayagraj Railway Station, one has the feel of the festivity. The entire city has been turned saffron. The Railway Station building too has a new look. Though the first ‘snan’ of the Kumbh is to take place on January 15, the city seems to be eagerly waiting for the pilgrims. As one exits the Railway Station towards Civil Lines, the cycle rickshaw pullers and e-Rickshaw & Vikram drivers try to catch every person crying Kumbh, Kumbh, Kumbh…The distance between the Kumbh from the Station is about 3 km.
 
 
 
The large scale preparations made by the state government for the Kumbh are visible at every step of the city. When asked how this Kumbh is different from the previous Kumbh, Yashpal (50), an e-Rickshaw driver, says: “Pahale ye mela hota tha, is baar ye Kumbh hai (Last time it used to be a fair, this time it is the Kumbh). My co-passenger in the e-Rickshaw, Dhirendra Maurya, interrupts: “Is baar Sadhu-Santon ka kumbh hai, pahale ye paryatakon ka kumbh hota tha. Pahali baar Prayagraj sahi mein Prayagraj lag raha hai (This year it is the Kumbh of saints, while earlier it used to be the confluence of tourists. For the first time the city looks like real Prayagraj). Shri Maurya recalls that some roads in the Kumbh areas have been built after decades. “There is a road in sector 6 which has been built after many decades. Every temple has been renovated and every Ghat has been repaired. Some new Ghats have also been built. The cleanliness is also admirable,” he adds.
 
A view of the paintings made on the walls of Prayagraj 
 
Striking Paintings
Development is visible everywhere in the city. Take any road from Bus Stand, Railway Station or Air Port to the Kumbh, huge paintings of Indian heritage and culture attract the attention. The glory of Prayagraj has beautifully been showcased through the striking paintings. The Kumbh Administration claims that the walls of 20 lakh square metres have been painted to present a glimpse of Indian culture.
  • 7100cr rupees spent on Kumbh 
  • 12cr plus devotees to reach 
  • 5000 : NRIs to visit 
  • 800 special trains to be started 
  • 250 Km new roads built 
  • 22 pontoon bridges built 
  • 9 flyovers built 
  • 22 bridges on Ganga, Yamuna 
  • 1000 CCTV cameras installed 
  • 20,000 dustbins installed 
  • 3200 sq hectare total area 
  • 20 lakh sq. ft. walls painted with paintings of Indian heritage & culture 
  • 64 crossings & 264 roads connecting the Kumbh widened 
  • 40,700 LED lights 
  • 1.22 lakh new toilets built
 
 
Apart from building 250 km roads in Kumbh, nine flyovers were built in one and a half years only. The UP Bridge Corporation created a record of building a four-lane wide and 1325 metre long flyover on single pillars in front of the High Court in 14 months only. Another record was created by completing one km long Railway Over Bridge at a height of 16.00 metre at Rambagh. Six railway underpasses have been widened to four-lane, which have smoothened the traffic movement in the densely populated areas. Also, 64 traffic crossings and 264 roads connecting the Kumbh area have been widened.
 
 
 
World’s Largest Tent City
The official machinery worked round the clock to ensure that all the preparations are over by January 10. And that has been done. The whole Kumbh campus has been divided into 20 sectors. All 13 Akharas of the satins have been provided with space in particular sectors, while the social and cultural organisations have been provided with space in different sectors. The largest makeshift city of the world has been created, which has about 250 km long roads and 22 pontoon bridges. For the first time a ‘Ganga Pandal’ with the capacity of 10,000 persons, a ‘Pravachan Pandal’ with the capacity of 1,000 persons and four cultural pavilions, where cultural programmes will be staged, have been built. Besides these arrangements, Yatri Nivas have been made for 20,000 common devotees.
The Kumbhs as per Astrological Calculations
  • When Jupiter enters the Aquarius constellation along with Sun moving into the Aries constellation, Kumbh is held in Haridwar 
  • When Jupiter moves into Leo, the Kumbh is held in Nasik on the banks of Godavari and in the event of Jupiter moving into Leo and Sun entering Aries in Ujjain. 
  • When Jupiter enters Libra and Sun and Moon remain together on Kartik Amavasya then also Kumbh is held in Ujjain 
  • When Jupiter, Sun, and Moon enter Cancer on Amavasya, then also Kumbh is held on the banks of Godavari •When Jupiter enters the Aries constellation and the Sun and the Moon are in Capricorn constellation, Kumbh is held at Prayagraj 
  • When Sun is in Capricorn and Jupiter moves into Taurus, the Kumbh is held at Prayagraj.
 
 Adequate arrangements for light have been made to ensure uninterrupted electricity supply and installing 40,700 LED lights. To ensure continuity of the developmental process, the state government has constituted ‘Prayagraj Mela Authority’. “Our priority is to provide better facilities to the pilgrims and ensure them a pleasant experience. We are making efforts to realise the concept of making the Kumbh a representative of India’s ‘Sanatan’ and inclusive culture and to familiarise the world with the high-quality life, conduct and thoughts of Indian culture through Kumbh,” says Awanish Awasthi, Additional Chief Secretary, Information, Tourism & Religious Affairs, UP, while talking to Organiser. Another exciting feature is that the satins have been provided with all the facilities, while the government provided with only the land.
 
 
 
Road, Water & Air Connectivity
Since the whole world participates in the Kumbh, Ambassadors of 71 countries inspected the preparations, and, when satisfied, have hoisted their respective national flags on the banks of Triveni. Representatives of 192 countries are expected to visit the Kumbh in February. The declaration of ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’ to the Kumbh by UNESCO has attracted people from world over. Over 5000 NRIs are expected to visit. A premium tent city has also been developed. Also, people from over 6 lakh villages of the country will participate.
Auspicious Dates for the Kumbh Snan
Makar Sankranti (1st Shahi Snan)January 15, 2019
Paush PoornimaJanuary 21, 2019
Mauni Amavasya February 04, 2019
Basant Panchami (3rd Shahi Snan) February 10, 2019
Maghi PoornimaFebruary 19, 2019
Maha Shivratri March 04, 2019
 
The Government of India has increased the number of flights by constructing a new air civil terminal in Prayagraj. The city has been connected through air route to the country’s main cities including Bengaluru, Indore, Nagpur, Patna, etc. A heliport is also being set up and arrangements are being made to provide the facility of helicopter joy ride to tourists. Indian Railways has declared 800 special trains from various parts of the country to Prayagraj during Kumbh. These trains will be in addition to the regular trains. Branding of the Kumbh is being done on 1,400 train coaches. Since Prayagraj has been connected through waterways also since centuries, the Government of India has revived this vital mode. For the first time, Indian Inland Waterways Authority has set up jetties at Sujawan Ghat, Old Naini Bridge, Saraswati Ghat and Quila Ghat. These jetties have facilitated operation of large cruises and motor boats.
 
Saraswati Koop Reopened
Kumbh starts with the worship of Ganga. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi performed this puja on December 16, 2018. Thanks to the efforts of the state government and the Ministry of Defence, the devotees coming to the Kumbh will have an opportunity, for the first time in 450 years, to pray at ‘Akshay Vat’ and ‘Saraswati Koop’. This has been done to ensure a devotionally and spiritually charged atmosphere to the pilgrims. There is a substantial hike in the budget. The state government earmarked Rs. 2800 crore for Kumbh along with various projects of permanent development worth Rs 4300 crore. In 2013, only Rs 1214 crore were spent on the Kumbh.
 
Thematic Gates
Over 200 cultural programmes of high quality, laser show on cultural topics, exhibitions and tourist walk are there. ‘Kala Gram’ and ‘Sanskriti Gram’ have been set up to showcase the Indian culture. Situated in sector 19, the Kalagram will provide a glimpse of the Indian art and culture. Thirteen pavilions, each with unique design and look, have been constructed here. Over two dozen temporary thematic gates have been erected which mark the approach roads to the Kumbh area and entrance to various sectors.
 
Foolproof Security
In order to ensure security, the entire Kumbh area is under CCTV surveillance and Integrated Control and Command Centre. It will facilitate controlling and keeping safe the traffic movement and flow of the devotees. There are adequate arrangements for fire fighting. Trauma centre will deal with the crisis in 40-bedded trauma care facility.
 
To be the Cleanest Kumbh
There is emphasis on cleanliness. Due to lesser number of toilets (only 34,000) in the Kumbh of 2013, people were forced to go for open defecation. This time over 1,22,000 toilets have been constructed. For the first time 20,000 dustbins have been placed in, besides deploying 140 tippers and 40 compactors for ensuring solid waste management. All the toilets are enabled with septic tank technology. These will be cleaned daily with the help of scores of vehicles using suction, and the sludge will be transported to sewage treatment plants for processing. Over 7 crore litres of sewage is expected to be treated daily. If the execution matches the planning, we can witness the cleanest ever Kumbh in the history of modern India this time.
 
 
‘We are Committed to Clean & Surakshit Kumbh’
The entire cabinet of UP Chief Minister Shri Yogi Adityanath has been on the move for the last one month to invite all state heads and prominent saints for the Kumbh-2019. As part of the drive Shri Suresh Rana, State Minister for Sugarcane Development, Sugar Mills & Industrial Development visited Delhi to invite LG Shri Anil Baijal and CM Arvind Kejriwal on January 7. Talking to Chief News Coordinator of Organiser Dr Pramod Kumar he said this year’s Kumbh will be clean and safe. Excerpts:
 
What are the preparations for the Kumbh this time?
All preparations on the ground are over. All cabinet colleagues of CM Shri Yogiji have visited various states and UTs to personally invite the CMs, Governors, Lt Governors and prominent saints of the area for the Kumbh. As part of it, I called on Lt Governor of Delhi Shri Anil Baijal and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on January 6 & 7. The UP CM Shri Yogi is personally monitoring the arrangements in Kumbh. Rs 4300 crore have been spent on permanent infrastructure development only. 42 drains have been tapped to ensure clean water in the Ganga. By land large 671 Kumbh-related projects have been completed. We have also ensured that the discharge from toilets in Kumbh area should not go into the sand and it would be disposed of outside the Kumbh area.
 
What are the special attractions this time?
‘Akshya Vat’ and ‘Saraswati Koop’ have been opened for the first time for pilgrims. It is for the first time that the pilgrims can reach Prayagraj through road, air and waterways. For the first time, a huge budget has been spent on permanent infrastructure development. It is three times more than the budget spent in 2013. The Kumbh area has also been doubled compared to 2013. The Sanskriti Kumbh will showcase marvellous sculptures, idols and art work on Indian heritage. Cruise ride in the river and light and sound shows are added attractions. The pilgrims will have a bath in the clean water this time.
 
The pilgrims who come to the Kumbh also visit the surrounding areas. What has been done for their development?
Yes, we know it. Adequate development has been done in all the surrounding areas. A ropeway has been started in Chitrakoot. We want that the pilgrims should visit all the places.
 
Usually, women face the problem of change room after bath. What has been done to address it?
This issue has appropriately been addressed and now no mother or sister would face any problem. Special women police have been deployed. We would ensure that no women face any problem.
 
Kumbh is not merely a festival, it is the spiritual heritage of Bharat. What has been done to ensure the dignity of that heritage?
Kumbh has been declared an intangible Heritage Site by UNESCO because of the efforts of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. Our CM Yogiji has ensured from the day one that all arrangements of the Kumbh are made keeping the spiritual and cultural factor in mind. Akshay Vat and Saraswati Koop have been opened because of these factors only. Drains have been tapped to ensure clean water in the Ganga.
 
Special efforts are being made to ensure that people from all regions should join the Kumbh. What is the vision behind this initiative?
The core element behind this initiative is social harmony. When people of all regions come together, it strengthens the unity in diversity. We may have a diversity of language, dress, meals, etc., but the spiritual base of all the people is same. Another objective is that the message of the Kumbh should reach every corner of the world.
 
Can we expect that the efforts made to make Ganga pollution-free now will ultimately clean the river permanently?
We know Ganga is not merely a river. She is the centre of our faith. It is the collective responsibility of the Central and state governments, saints and the society to keep the Ganga clean and green. The clean water of Ganga in this Kumbh is mainly because of those collective efforts only. These initiatives would continue in future also.
 
 
Dip in the Clean Water
Arrangements have been made to treat river water through bio-remediation so that no effluent pollutes the rivers. It is for the first time, after decades, that the pilgrims will have a dip in the clean Ganga water. Banks of the Ganga and Triveni are clean. So far, 32 nullahs (drains) opening in the Ganga have been sealed. To make Ganga pollution-free, four schemes have been implemented under the Namami Gange Programme. Out of these, two schemes have been completed and 90 per cent work has been done on the remaining two.
 
Experience 3600 Virtual Reality
The pilgrims can also witness a whole new digital experience of 3600 virtual reality world. Ten stalls facilitating the pilgrims with this experience have been specially set up at the prime locations. At these stalls, the pilgrims can watch the Kumbh videos and experience as if they are physically present in those events, using a special VR headset. These stalls will show videos of major events such as Peshwai (Grand procession of Akharas), auspicious bathing days (snan), Ganga Aarti, and multiple special footages from this grand festival of faith and harmony.
 
Kumbhs within the Kumbh
Different activities have been planned by various organisations also. One of them is ‘Netra Kumbh; to be organised from January 12 to March 4 by Bhaurao Deoras Sewa Nyas, Rajju Bhaiya Sewa Nyas, Saksham, National Medicos Organisation, Sir Gangaram Hospital, Antyodaya Health Mission and Government of Uttar Pradesh. It will treat the eye ailments of the devotees visiting the Kumbh. Sanskar Bharati has planned a Sanskriti Kumbh from February 12 to 13. On January 11, Sanskar Bharati organised ‘Ganga Manuhar’ when the waters of all rivers of Bharat was added into the Triveni. Another interesting preparation by Sanskar Bharati is to acquaint the devotees with the cultural heritage of North-Eastern States from January 12 to March 4. It will help in bringing people of northeast and rest of the country closer.
 
Over a million people reach Kumbh without any invitation and in a self-disciplined manner. The arrangements made by the central and state governments for the pilgrims this time show that it would be a divine and grand confluence of the pilgrims. The active involvement of the official machinery and personal monitoring of the preparations by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath are all to restore the glory of Prayagraj. Every pilgrim is expected to return with a divine experience. 

(With inputs from Raghvendra Kumar)