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Social activist Medha Patekar arrested in Allahabad

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Lucknow: Social activist Medha Patekar was arrested in Allahabad on Saturday, police said.

She was on her way to Kachari village when police tried to prevent her from going ahead, fearing tension in the area. As she refused to abort the plan, senior police officials arrested her and took her to the police lines.

Patkar was going to attend an event in the village on the death anniversary of a social activist Banwari Lal Sharma and was later also due to meet families of some people arrested for opposing the land acquisition in the area.

Patkar was detained at the guest house at Allahabad university. But she was arrested as she began to move towards a rally venue and staged a sit-in.

Patkar was demanding immediate release of people arrested for opposing land acquisition by the government authorities in that area.


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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


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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India’s Kumbh Melas: The traditional Congregation is under danger due to Water Scarcity

According to a report by Indian Institute of Technology, maintaining the continuous flow of water in these rivers has become a big challenge

Pilgrims taking dip at Kumbh Mela. Image Source:
  • The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the eighth century and are hosted at  Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik
  • The un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic
  • These congregations are not spaced out they add to the woes of the holy rivers

The receding holy water at the Kumbh Melas is a stark reflection of water scarcity inflicted by man, which in turn is intensified by adverse weather conditions.

Reflecting on the unfortunate state of river Shipra, Badal Nath (64) said, “The last time (12 years ago), it was a stinking drain, nauseating even to step into, let alone take a dip. The water we see now has been pumped from the Narmada. What have we done to our holy river?”

This quote seems to be inappropriate when you read about the smoothly flowing Shipra river in the Simhastha Kumbh Mela that ended on May 21. But the truth that it was a superficial arrangement. The water was pumped through a concrete, closed pipe from the Narmada to Shipra so that pilgrims could conveniently take their holy dip.

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A few years ago, Shipra was hardly recognizable as a holy river and all it carried was sewage. Later, the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government came up with what is today termed as a ‘skewed’ scheme to transfer five cusecs of water every day from the Narmada near Omkareshwar to Shipra.

Another instance of negligence and failure by the government bodies is the condition of the Godavari, which also hosts a Kumbh Mela every 12 years. Putting the ancient Hindu practice of taking a dip in the holy water in danger, it was observed that Ramkund in Nashik, the center of the festival last year, had also dried up in April for the first time.

The practice of organizing Kumbh Mela dates back to the 8th century, during which the pilgrims take a dip in the sacred water bodies in a hope of finding salvation at four places- namely, Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain, and Nashik. Each place holds its congregation every 12 years and is usually visited by millions of pilgrims.

The lack of water in these rivers is mostly covered up by the government and civic bodies to escape massive public anger and therefore, they usually come up with short-lived and temporary solutions. Apart from this, there is one more reason that contributes to the problem. These congregations are not spaced out (say, for example, the Nashik Kumbh was held in 2015 and shortly after Ujjain Kumbh was hosted in 2016), they add to the woes of our holy rivers.

Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015. Image Source:
Nashik Kumbh Mela 2015. Image Source:

According to a report by Indian Institute of Technology, maintaining the continuous flow of water in these rivers has become a big challenge.

The long period of drought in Central India has worsened the effect of government’s negligence of Godavari. The result was that the Municipal Corporation had to turn to pump water from groundwater in 2015.

These un-thought measures in a country that are already one of the most water-stressed countries are nothing less than catastrophic.

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No doubt, India is going through the worst hydrological crisis of all times. quoted Himanshu Thakkar, a river expert as saying, “Although the change in weather patterns and increasing rise in temperatures have contributed to it, our rivers are facing unprecedented deterioration today because of the way we have ill-treated them.”

Somnath Bandyopadhyay, an ecologist, also added, “Some of the projects implemented in the 1950s and 60s failed to take the long view, and have contributed to the present sorry situation of sick and dying rivers.”

Thakkar believes that immediate remedial measures must be taken to restore the water flow of these rivers.

Many believe that the Hindu society needs to actively participate since it is about safeguarding their religion and tradition.

However, for now, it seems that our holy rivers are in serious danger, which can’t be reversed any time soon.

-prepared by Bulbul Sharma, a staff-writer at NewsGram. Twitter handle: iBulbul_



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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.

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