Monday, July 20, 2015

A Holy Dip in the Holy Waters at Kumbh Mela or Pushkar Events

The Ardh Kumbh Mela or Half  Kumbh Mela event will take place in the first quarter of the year 2019 on the banks of River Ganges at Prayag, Allahabad.

You must have come across these terms 'holy river' or 'holy water' many times if you are in India or living with Indian Community in your circles.

What is a Holy River and Why it is Holy

The river Ganges or 'Ganga' is considered as a very pious and holy river with magical attributes since history immemorial. The Vedas and Puranas glorified "Ganga" as the Holy Mother purifying human beings from their sins. It is believed that the river was formed from heavenly nectar that descended to earth with the help of Shiva on the severe penance of  Bhagiratha who brought it down to give rebirth to his ancestors. So, the starting point of Ganges is known as Bhagiratha tirtha on the Himalayas. Since it was brought down to earth for giving rebirth or salvation to the ancestors and as it contains heavenly nectar which makes life eternal with no death, people believe that whoever takes bath in this river gets rid of all sins and attains moksha which is free of death and earthly attachments.

What is Holy Water?
Holy water refers to the water of Ganges and that of other rivers during some auspicious moments or periods. The waters of other rivers are treated as 'holy water' during the time periods of the occasions of Kumbh Mela or Pushkar that occur at each 12-year gaps.

Normal water is also converted into holy water by sprinkling a drop or two of the holy water into it that can be used for religious and other auspicious purposes. That is why some people carry holy water in bottles to their homes after bathing at Kumbh Mela or Pushkar occasions. That water is stored and used for a lengthy period on such auspicious occasions.

Kumbh Mela
Kumbh Mela is celebrated after completion of every 3 years at each one of these four places rotationally:- Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik, and Ujjain. The rivers of these four places are respectively as follows.

  • River Ganges at Haridwar
  • The confluence of 3 rivers - Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati at Prayag in Allahabad.
  • River Godavari at Nashik
  • River Shipra at Ujjain.
So, each of these four places celebrates the Kumbh Mela after every 12 years gap.

Four Kumbh Mela Places & Duration of Celebrations

  1. Allahabad- During Magha masa or for approximately 45 days during the months of January-February.
  2. Haridwar-  During Chaitra masa or for approx. 45 days during March-April.
  3. Ujjain-       During Vaishakha masa or approximately 45 days during April-May.
  4. Nashik-     During bhadrapada masa or approx. 45 days during August-September.

Pushkar or Pushkaralu
As per Hindu mythology, "Pushkar" is the name of one great pious person or angel who can live in water and purify the waters. So, Jupiter requests him to travel along with him all through the years and keep purifying all waters of all rivers. Pushkar accepts Jupiter's request and started to live in the rivers along the path of Jupiter.

One day's travel of Jupiter is equal to one year for us human beings.

'Pushkaram' is the event of celebration when Jupiter enters into one of the zodiac signs and remains there for one year. The first twelve days are most important and known as adi Pushkaram and the last twelve days are known as Antya Pushkaralu.

As per Hindu astrology, there are twelve rashis in each year which are known as zodiac signs. Each zodiac sign is associated with a river. So, when Jupiter enters a particular zodiac sign each year, the river associated with that sign becomes the place of pushkaram for that year. In this way, each river celebrates pushkaram on their turn every 12 years. So, the cities and towns on the banks of each of these 12 rivers celebrate pushkaram or holy dips (also known as pushkaralu in Andhra Pradesh) every 12 years.

The Rivers and their corresponding zodiac signs: 
(The Hindu astrological Rashi names are also given for each zodiac sign in brackets)

Chart showing River Names and Corresponding zodiac signs with a period of their occurrence

Zodiac sign
Aries         (mesh rashi)
Taurus      (vrushabh rashi)
Gemini     (mithun rashi)
Cancer      (kark rashi)
Leo            (simha rashi)
Virgo         (kanya rashi)
Libra          (tula rashi)
Scorpio     (vrushchik rashi)
Tapti/ Brahmaputra
Sagittarius (dhanur rashi)
Capricorn  (makar rashi)
Aquarius   (kumbh rashi)
Pisces        (meena rashi)

So, for Kumbh Mela purpose, the above mentioned four places of Allahabad(Prayag), Haridwar, Nashik, and Ujjain are famous where tens of millions of people gather to take bath in the holy river.

Regarding pushkaralu, all the places falling on the banks of above mentioned 12 rivers are believed to be auspicious and holy.

So, devotees flock to any place whichever is nearer to them to take a dip in the holy waters on that occasions.

But, much importance is given to those places only with major waters flowing in abundance. It might also be due to the location of famous temples in those places.

People pray to God while taking bath chanting God's name or some hymns and take three dips into the waters. Then, they go to the temple on the banks and offer prayers and take blessings of God.

For some more details about Kumbh Mela or Maha Kumbh, you may visit this post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Stampede on First Day of Kumbh Mela/Pushkaralu Claims 27 Lives - Who is to be Blamed?

People of Andhra Pradesh were excitingly waiting for the kickstart of Pushkaralu (The Godavari Kumbh Mela) at Rajahmundry in the early hours of the auspicious time on 14th July 2015.

It is a big celebration every 12 years, and especially this year's Godavari Pushkaralu is termed as the "Maha Pushkaralu" that occurs once in every 144 years.

That is, only one person among three generations can witness and take part in this great event.

Those who take a dip in the holy waters of Godavari during Pushkaralu is considered to be the luckiest person who directly attains moksha besides elevating the souls of all his ancestors.

But, this sad news of stampede at Pushkar ghat in Rajahmundry is a great blow to all of us.

Devotees who have come with a desire to take the holy dip in the Godavari to attain eternal bliss and moksha had to return with the dead bodies of their family members. What more can be worst than this blow?

Now, who is to be blamed for all this?

  • Do you think God is to be blamed?
  • Or is it the fault of the person dying?
  • Or is it the people around the victim?
  • Do you say CM is to be blamed for taking his dip or inaugurating it?
No, none of them can be blamed.

Then who is Responsible? 

I say the administration is responsible. 

The Police standing mute spectators are to be blamed.

The people not maintaining patience and control over themselves are also to be blamed.

  • The administration who have planned for the arrangements should have provided for some control mechanism in case of overcrowding.
  • They should not have shut down the gates for pilgrims to facilitate CM's visit and dip. They could have as well allowed them in small batches to reach the ghat and take their dips. It should not be a problem for CM's protection and security.
  • The police should have kept their attention on the moving people and should have facilitated safe and peaceful movement, especially taking care of women, children, and weaker people.

Crowd Management for Kumbh Mela

Each year, you come across incidents of stampede and loss of lives. Even then, you are not learning the mechanism of crowd control. It shows carelessness of the administrations as well as lack of self-control among people.

People can't wait till their turn patiently. They want to do it immediately and think others are not interested and so not doing it fast. 

At cinema theatres, you see people climbing overheads to reach the counter to purchase tickets as if you are simply standing there and not interested in moving forward.

At temples, people are in the queue. But, you think they are not going forward and you may be trying to push them forward, and at times, you may even climb over their heads to reach forward.

You can't wait for some time as the queue is moving slowly. Why all this?

What to Do

  • The administration should learn from past experiences by studying the cases of similar incidents and collect knowledge regarding what methods can be applied to such situations of crowd management
  • Arrangements should not be centered around facilitating VIP visits only. Elaborate well-planned measures should be employed to tackle unexpected burst of crowds. The attitude of buttering to VIPs should be discarded and they should think for the welfare of all people collectively.
  • If special treatments are to be given to VIPs, it does not mean depriving the rights of common man. So, protection to VIP can be offered, but at the same time, equal concern for the public should also be kept in mind by these organizers.
  • Coming to Police, they should always be well prepared for disaster management with adequate staff, equipment, and smart attitudes also.
  • The police should be present in small groups or batches at every point and corner of these public gatherings so as to be able to control their movements.
  • Queue systems and barricades can be erected for safe passage of people in a controlled manner.
  • Remember that crowd management does not mean stopping their movement or hindering their paths with obstructions. It means ensuring smooth flow of people without stopping them.
  • You can learn from the traffic police. Just like they control the flow of traffic on roads, you need to manage the flow of people who are moving with their feet here on the ground. 
  • The staff managing the queue can give break for a minute or two in between and then again allow the movements and again give some break and thereafter allow some, like that. 
  • The main purpose is to facilitate free movement without overcrowding at a single spot.
  • We, as public also have our own responsibilities. We need to be self-controlled and well disciplined. 
  • Think of people around you and consider their own job also as important as of yours. 
  • Always try to be generous and kind and be of some help to people around you.