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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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Fireworks Might Extinguish the Flame of Laxmi Puja

We can have various kind of festival enjoyments on Festivals but without ever causing problem to others and the environment

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Fireworks
There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. Pixabay

BY SALIL GEWALI

If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong. There is no mention in any corners of the voluminous scriptures of Fireworks blasting during a PUJAS that “upset” the harmony of peace and tranquility of others. To disturb others’ tranquility falls under the heading of vices. Preserving the sanctity of the environment, and more importantly, inner purity of mind and heart is the “prime doctrine” of SANATAN DHARMA which is popularly known as Hinduism. This Hindu culture now seemingly run the risk of having been defined by other communities with what is not very pleasant to hear.

Fireworks
It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment without Using Fireworks.

I’ve overheard many toxic comments against this blatant desecration of auspicious “puja celebrations”. During Holi festival, many people fear to move out of their homes, particularly in certain the plane areas in India. You might be blasted with a bucketful of dirty water by pranksters from the 5th floor of the building. Is this sadism the part of the puja and holi celebration? One is afraid, with each passing year, this festival of color of joy, though having strong spiritual significance, has only painted the very face of Hindu culture with vulgarity and depravity.

Fireworks
If one wants to connect Hindu culture with the senseless bursting of crackers, Fireworks and boisterous fun then he is absolutely wrong.

Matter of fact, peace in one’s life and his efforts to help bring peace in others’ lives is essentially the fundamental basis of Hindu culture and festivals. Practically speaking, there is no devotion to God without “peace”.  Therefore, “Shanti” (peace) is one of the most paramount peace mantras in Sanskrit, not “Ashanti” which, of late, is the hallmark of such Hindu puja celebrations. The profound objective behind this peace mantra, as propounded in Upanishads, inspired even one of the greatest poets of the 20th Century – TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land. That poem finally ends with the same peace mantra — Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

Fireworks
TS Eliot who underlined it with the purpose of life which he brought out in his epic poem – The Waste Land.

It should not be misunderstood ever that Hinduism disapproves of all kinds of fun and frolic. No, it is never so.  We can have various kind of festival enjoyments but without ever causing problem to others and the environment. There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna LilaRam Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”. Ancient sages in their meditation conceived and authored a number of treatises in which we find the elaborate approaches and procedures to evolve oneself spiritually through fun-filled dances and music. There are “ragas and layas” (musical modes and rhythm), which are meant to “recharge” the mind for the meditative concentrationThe objective behind being to climb up the ladders of realization of oneness and universal uniformity.

Fireworks
There are sufficient mentions of fun and frolic, merrymaking even in the spiritual activities — like Krishna Lila, Ram Lila…; and there exist endless nritya shashtras for healthy recreation and not Fireworks. But they all are within the “purview of Dharma”.

However, there is absolutely no scope or prescription for deriving pleasure or fun by causing pain and anxieties to others? How come bursting high decibel fireworks at 2 AM or 3 AM or 4 AM is puja? In fact, it is called “adharma” or irreligion leading to self-degeneration.

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Therefore, it is DIYA, as per Vedas, which symbolizes the LIGHT to dispel the darkness of ignorance, the darkness of vices, and bring forth the light of knowledge to awake the “inherent” divinity. Goddess Laxmi is the “flame” of feminine ENERGY in the infinite cosmic creation. So, indulging in earsplitting fireworks and causing continuous problem to HER creatures, and HER environment, is totally against the fundamental principle of the devotion in Hinduism. Very sadly, with the blasting of the fireworks in the name of Goddess Laxmi we have invariably set off the tank of vices alone.

Salil Gewali is a well-Known Writer and Author of ‘Great Minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali