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‘No Selfie Zone’ in Nashik Kumbh

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

With the concept of selfie becoming so popular that it became the word of the year in 2013, the Kumbh Mela in Nashik has put up a banner declaring a ‘No Selfie Zone’ on August 29.

Such prohibition of selfie in selected zones and on specific days was th result of a “human behaviour study” conducted by over a 100 volunteers who warned officials that selfies could result in stampedes,particularly during the traditional Shah Snan.

“Since July 13, our volunteers on the field have been collecting data which showed that people stop to take selfies. They also climb to dangerous spots to take selfies,” said Sandip Shinde, CEO of Kumbhathon.

The ‘No Selfie Zone’ will be strictly maintained on September 13 and 18 in Nashik and September 13 and 25 at Trimbakeshwar,officials said.

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Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City: Harvard Publishes a Book on Hindu Festival

The Maha Kumbh Mela is a 55-day long confluence which is held periodically after every 12 years

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Harvard University has added prestige and importance to the Indian heritage by publishing ‘Kumbh Mela – Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City,’ a book that details about the brilliance with which Maha Kumbh Mela of 2013 was organised.

The studies were carried out by a team of 50 professors and students at the South Asia Institute of Harvard to learn about what makes this temporarily built city of pilgrimage a “megacity.” The book was launched this year, in 2016, on August 1, mentioned the TOI report.

Swami Nithyananda during the Maha Kumbh Mela. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Swami Nithyananda during the Maha Kumbh Mela. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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India is one of the most culturally and spiritually rich nations of the world, where Eid, Diwali, Christmas and all festivals are celebrated with great zeal. With some celebrations lasting for days and months, the Kumbh Mela is a mass pilgrimage of Hindu devotees that take a dip in the sacred rivers to wash off their sins. The Maha Kumbh Mela is a 55-day long confluence which is held periodically after every 12 years.

Special fleet services during the mela. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Special fleet services during the mela. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

According to the TOI report, this 449-page book contains town planners, architectural and infrastructural plans of bigger cities than the mela, which locates the Kumbh Mela as a better-organised spectacle than Manhattan and FIFA World Cup held in Brazil in 2014. The book calls the confluence ‘more than mere a spectacle.’

“How more than 100 million come to a small place, stay there for 55 days, apart from a daily cycle of a crowd of nearly five million bathing at the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati, meet each other, pray, join their gurus, camp with sadhus and ascetics and safely return to their native places are the things worth studying.”

– ‘KumbhMela- Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City’

Electric water scooters for emergency equipments Source: Wikimedia Commons
Electric water scooters for emergency equipments. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
  • The Kumbh Mela of 2013 was organised in Allahabad under the government of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Yadav launched the Hindi translation of the book in Lucknow on Monday, August 1.
  • 390 million of total calls and messages were sent and received over the period of the mela making it the largest usage of mobile phones in a concentrated area.
  • Total 146 million messages were exchanged and over 245 million calls were made.

prepared by Chetna Karnani, at NewsGram. Twitter: @karnani_chetna

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Maiden Entry of Kinnar Akhara grabs the Spotlight at Ujjain Kumbh

The transgender community is fighting against discrimination for ages and they seek acceptance and recognition and want to be part of the society

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Lakshmi Tripathi, the mahamandaleshwar, or great leader of the Kinnar Akhara. Image Source: Scroll.in[ Punit Reddy]
  • The Simhastha or Kumbh Mela at Ujjain saw a gathering of thousands of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of the transgender community, Kinnar Akhara
  • Kinnar can be understood as Kin-nar which means what-men and is the closest Sanskrit word for transgender
  • While some of the existing 13 Akharas are struggling to find devotees, the newly formed Kinnar Akhara has received an overwhelming response with thousands of people 

With over 100 million participants, the Kumbh Mela festival in India is the world’s largest congregation of religious pilgrims. By washing themselves in the sacred rivers, the Hindu pilgrims and sadhus believe to be cleansed of all their sin and liberated from the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The Simhastha or Kumbh Mela at Ujjain saw a gathering of thousands of devotees lined up to seek the blessings of the transgender community, Kinnar Akhara.

The Kumbh Mela is held once every three years at Haridwar, Prayag, Nashik and Ujjain. The venue is decided based on planetary movements and it is believed that the event marks the time when the river waters gain the power of amrita(the nectar of immortality) churned by devas (celestial forces) and asuras (subterranean forces) from the ocean of milk. The waters are believed to have the power to rid of all the sins acquired in one’s life so that he can start his life once again.

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The holy men, popularly known as Naga Babas are the first to bathe in these waters. The Babas or mendicants belong to one of 13 akharas, or ascetic orders. The scroll.in report says that the term naga probably originated from the word nanga, or naked, for they are digambaras – which means sky-clad, a metaphor for naked. The shahi-snan, or the royal bath of the babas, is the highlight of the Kumbh Mela. The bodies of the Naga Babas are usually smeared with ash, which is believed to contain a spiritual power born of celibacy. The ash mingles with the water, thereby lending to it this power. Only after these holy men have bathed do devotees jump into the water, cited the Scroll.in report.

A transgender from the Kinnar Akhara at Ujjain Kumbh. Image source: Punit Reddy

Kinnar can be understood as Kin-nar which means what-men and is the closest Sanskrit word for transgender. An akhara is a place of practice with facilities for boarding, lodging and training either used by Indian martial artists or a monastery for religious renunciates. The akhara members, the babas, are aligned to various schools of Hinduism such as Shaivism and Vaishnavism. There are Sikh akharas too. The akharas are either astradharis (those who bear weapons) or shastradharis (those who bear scriptures), says the Scroll.in report.

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According to the Scroll.in report, while some of the existing 13 Akharas are struggling to find devotees, the newly formed Kinnar Akhara has received an overwhelming response with thousands of people falling at the feet of the transgenders led by Lakshmi Tripathi, who was declared the mahamandaleshwar of this spiritual gymnasium. As they were seen as a subversive group, rather than a traditional one, they were denied the right to take part in shahi snan. So, they took out their own procession, the Peshwai, with horses and camels, and even took a bath on their own terms.

“We thought we won’t be accepted here because we are generally discriminated against, but people not only welcomed us, they showered money and devotion on us,” Pavitra, who belongs to the Kinnar Akhara, told The Indian Express.

The transgender community has been fighting against discrimination since ages. They seek acceptance and recognition and want to be part of the society. The public support at the Kumbh Mela has not only made them happy but has also sparked a hope of complete assimilation into the society.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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Money Talks: Power Play at Simhastha Kumbh in the ranks of Naga Sadhus

The post of Shri Mahant is a respected and a desirable one as it is important in the functioning of the akhara.

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Kumbh Mela. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Last week in Ujjain, there was a violent clash between two groups of Naga sadhus for the top post in their akhara during the ongoing Simhastha Kumbh at Ujjain. The power play has prompted doubts and questions regarding spiritualism.

Rahul Puri, one of the Naga sadhus who received bullet injury as a result of the clash in Ujjain reflects upon the complexities and dangers of power play in the monastic orders. Important positions in akharas are bought for huge amounts of money and hence hierarchical equation is of great significance to the sadhus.

Avahan akhara is one of the seven militant ascetic orders of Shaiva persuasion and Rahul belongs to this group. Together with three Vaishnav akharas and another three akharas owing allegiance partly to Sikhism and partly to Shaivism, they control most of the ascetic space of Hinduism and its largest religious gathering is the Kumbh Mela.

Related article– Kumbh Mela: One of the greatest Pilgrimages in the World

On May 12 the incident happened in the Avahan akhara that proved the complexities of power play leaving about a dozen of Nagas injured.

The post of Shri Mahant is a respected and a desirable one as it is important in the functioning of the akhara. There are four Shri Mahants in total that represents four sets of marhis (ascetic lineages), who jointly take all the decisions related to akhara like dealing with real estate holdings and other assets.

Naga Sadhus. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Naga Sadhus. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

A Shri Mahant is elected for a period of six years by a set of marhis in a democratic manner. The election is done based on a required set of skills, of which money and muscle power seems most crucial. Once the person gets elected, he influences the functioning of akhara even after he leaves his post.

In 2013, an incident took place during the Allahabad Kumbh, where the Mahanirvani and Juna akharas faced similar charges of having received huge amounts of money from Radhe Ma as well as Swami Nithyanand respectively for anointing them as Mahamandaleshwars.

These incidents clearly show that money talks and money matters to maintain the equation of power play. “Almost 90% cases in Ayodhya are of this very nature. Crimes being committed for mahantship is merely a reflection of what has been happening here for quite some time,” said Ranjit Lal Varma, an advocate in Faizabad.

In the nerve centre of Vaishnav akharas, in Ayodhya, incidents like allegations against disciples who killed their gurus to take over precious temple land and ashrams are nothing to be surprised of and one can tell that by looking at the pile of cases in the local courts.

(Inputs from Scroll.in)