Sages, vairaghis, and yogis of different sects have come together to celebrate this year’s Kumbh, but all is not copacetic. Juna Akhara, the largest sect in terms of the number of saints, has decided to take action against the chiefs (mahants) accused of immoral activities. At least five such mahants have been sacked. A high-powered committee of seers will decide on their fate after four of them submitted a written apology. On the other hand, the Kumbh administration has decided not to allot land to the ascetics facing criminal cases, in order to avoid any controversy.
The national spokesperson of the Juna Akhara, Mahant Vidyanand Saraswati, said a saint fondly called Golden Baba was facing 32 criminal cases, including murder and kidnapping.
“He has been sacked from the akhara, and others will be taken into the fold after the committee is satisfied with their justifications. However, sometimes, our role is undermined due to politics. Even when we take action, the saints facing criminal charges are able to garner support from the government machinery. This patronage should stop,” Mahant Saraswati said.
Baba Rampuri from Ujjain said that the Kumbh is a place where devotees conceive of god, have a deeper and evolutionary experience of their existence, and that is why saints must keep themselves far away from any activities that may be seen as some kind of aggression. He said that the aim of the Kumbh is to spread the fragrance of Indian spiritualism across the world, and the ethos should not be compromised at any cost.
Naga Baba Giri, an ascetic smeared in ashes from head to toe, said that the Kumbh is a mystery and can only be decoded by those who believe in the teachings of ancient scriptures and spiritual masters.
“Kumbh teaches us the significance of spiritual bliss,” Baba Giri said.
Juna Akhara has also set up tents for women mystics, who will camp for two months in Kumbh. Uma Giri, who set up the first tent, said that the "sant samaj" is happy with the arrangements, but the administration on the ground should be more proactive to address any concerns raised by them. As of now, the "Sanyasini Juna Akhara" at the Kumbh, where over 500 women saints are expected to gather, is facing problems in terms of infrastructure.
Just a kilometre away from the akaharas, the government, for the first time in the history of the Kumbh, is building 5,000 premium tents for NRIs and foreigners. This area will also have craft villages and will witness rituals from the Vedic period which will continue for the next 55 days.
Satendra, who is setting up the Indraprastham tent city, said that the idea is to enable the foreign pilgrims to transcend time, and experience the rich Vedic heritage of India. He said that the tent city will be an amalgamation of various Vedic rituals in the form of "Somyagam", a devotional musical fest and Vedic seminars. In February, representatives from 192 countries will make a trip to Kumbh. There will be more than 30 thematic gates based on ancient scriptures and over 200 cultural programmes for pilgrims. An art village on the riverside focusing on the country’s diverse culture will be an added attraction.
The state government has already completed 671 schemes in Prayagraj. The government has allocated Rs 4,300 crore for Kumbh in 2019, as compared to just Rs 1,214 crore in 2013. More than 264 road construction work projects have been undertaken by the state government and a third party monitoring mechanism has been institutionalised to ensure transparency. Sanjay Rai, Deputy Director, Information said that Kumbh is the biggest temporary city of the world because of the sheer number of people living in it, and the massive infrastructure.
“Besides, we have 40,700 thousand LED lights in the Kumbh city and more than 500 shuttle buses for pilgrims. We have also created public accommodation with a capacity of 20,000 beds. There will be a control and command centre costing at least Rs 247 crore. The Kumbh in 2013 had only 34,000 toilets, while this year, we have 1.22 lakh toilets, 20,000 dustbins and 15,000 sanitation workers,” Dr. Rai said.
Amit Katiyar, nodal officer for the water and sewage systems at Kumbh, said that the government has already set up 5,000 stand posts with the help of an 800-kilometre water pipe line that will also be connected to 200 water ATMs. Katiyar said that a dedicated team for drainage and sewerage has been able to construct 850 kilometre-long drains, and waste materials will be recycled at two plants outside of the city.
More than 32 hospitals, including a 100-bed central hospital, air and river ambulances will cater to the health needs of saints and pilgrims. The central hospital is already functional and more than 10,000 patients, including tourists, have received treatment. Kumbh will have more than 2,000 doctors, including two dozen dental surgeons. The doctors and para-medical staff is being trained to deal with injuries due to stampedes, drowning and fires. Dr SP Singh, chief medical superintendent of the Central Hospital at Kumbh, said a separate medical team will also provide Ayurvedic and Homeopathic treatment for patients.
“A pathology lab has also been set up so that the patients are not required to travel to the private labs in the city for medical tests. We have set up an intensive care unit in the central hospital,” Singh added.
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Updated Date: Jan 03, 2019 19:00:19 IST