Saturday, 26 January 2013


What lessons we can learn from Mahakumbha at Triveni Sangama as Management Students?

Kumbh Mela:It is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Prayag (Allahabad), Nasik and Ujjain. Thus the Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardh (Half) Kumbh Mela is held at only two places,Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The rivers at these four places are: Ganga  at Haridwar, confluence (“Sangam”) of Ganga and Yamuna and mythical Saraswati at Prayag(Allahabad), Godawari at Nasik and Shipra at Ujjain.

 "Kumbh" means a pitcher and “Mela” means fair in Hindi. The pilgrimage is held for about one and a half months at each of these four places where — it is believed in Hindu mythology — drops of nectar fell from the Kumbh carried by gods after the sea was churned.


The first written evidence of the Kumbha Mela can be found in the accounts of Chinese traveler, Huan Tsang (602 - 664 A.D.) who visited India in 629 -645 CE, during the reign of King Harshavardhana, However, similar observances date back many centuries, where the river festivals first started getting organised. According to medieval history, its origin is found in one of the most popular medieval puranas, the Bhagavata Purana. The Samudra manthan episode (Churning of the ocean of milk), is mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana,Vishnu Purana,the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana.

The account goes that the demigods had lost their strength by the curse of Durväsä Muni, and to regain it, they approached Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva. They directed all the demigods to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Vishnu and after praying to Lord Vishnu, he instructed them to churn the ocean of milk Ksheera Sagara (primordial ocean of milk) to receive Amrita (the nectar of immortality). This required them to make a temporary agreement with their arch enemies, the demons, to work together with a promise of sharing the wealth equally thereafter. However, when the Kumbha (urn) containing the amrita appeared, a fight ensued. For twelve days and twelve nights (equivalent to twelve human years) the gods and demons fought in the sky for the pot of amrita. It is believed that during the battle, Lord Vishnu (incarnated as Mohini-Mürti) flew away with the  Kumbha of elixir spilling drops of amrita at four places: Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.


A procession of Akharas marching over a makeshift bridge over the Ganga river, Kumbh Mela at Allahabad(Prayag), 2001
 The order of entering the water is fixed. First the Juna, and the Niranjani and Mahanirvani akharas proceed to the water one after another in an orderly manner.


Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2001.

The festival is billed as the "biggest gathering on Earth". There is no scientific method of ascertaining the number of pilgrims even approximately and the estimates of the number of pilgrims bathing on the most auspicious day may vary very widely from two to eight million depending upon the team(s) of persons making the estimate and the rough method of making the estimate. This year it may cross around 120 million.

 Photo taken by Life Photographer James Burke in 1953 congregation of Kumbh Mela not published till now.
 Few spectacles on Earth can compare to the great six-week Hindu pilgrimage, the ancient Kumbh Mela, during which literally tens of millions of people make their way to the river Ganges in order to bathe and worship. The 2013 Kumbh Mela takes place at Allahabad (Prayag) this year and will go on for 55 days
Without taking into the religions connotations, what we have to look at it as Management students and using all the technological innovations some times not able to organise an event even a fraction of this magnitude
Hindu devotees
Hindu devotees bathe in the waters of Sangam, the confluence of the holy rivers Ganges, Yamuna and (mythical) Saraswati, during the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, on Jan. 15, 2013
The great American writer Mark Twain, of all people, also captured (or at least suggested) the unimaginable scale and the depth of faith on display everywhere during the phenomenal gathering:

“It is wonderful,” Twain wrote in 1895, after witnessing that year’s Kumbh Mela, “the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination.”
Tens of Millions Gather at India’s Maha Kumbh Mela

What’s billed as the largest single gathering of humanity is taking place right now in the northern Indian city of Allahabad. At the confluence of the Yamuna, Ganges and (mythical) Saraswati Rivers, as many as 100 million people will participate over the next month in an ancient Hindu festival known as the Kumbh Mela. The pilgrimage, which dates back millennia, occurs in 12-year cycles — in 2001, the Indian government estimated a staggering 70 million congregated by the Ganges’ banks to ritually bathe in its sacred waters.

News-agency photographers, of course, have a field day (or month) during the Kumbh Mela. It’s a time when India’s rising global clout and simmering social tensions take a backseat to images of ascetic sadhus — their faces doused in ash, their feral, matted hair coiled like serpents upon their heads — charging the river in religious ecstasy. Of course, it’s nothing new in India for outsiders to gawk at such “timeless” rites.

Tens of Millions Gather at India’s Maha Kumbh Mela

 Imperial hubris aside, at first glance it is difficult to understand what would tempt anybody to join such an immense throng. On certain auspicious days, as many as 10 million to 30 million people may flock to the waters of the Sangam, the meeting point of the Yamuna, the Ganges and the Saraswati. The places that sort of an event in global perspective:

Imagine the entire population of Shanghai—about 23 million—camping on a 4×8 kilometer field. Add to that mass of humanity every last man, woman and child in New York City and you’re getting closer to the Kumbh’s expected attendance. But still not quite there. The area of the mela is also on the rise: from 1,495.31 hectare and 11 sectors in 2001 to 1936.56 hectare and 14 sectors in 2013. That’s about 4,784 acres of land – about the size of Madrid’s famous Casa de Campo park. 
And imagine the pollution, the press of bodies, the baseness of camping conditions, the difficulty to simply move from one site to another. Imagine too the noise generated by so many human beings just massed together in one place. By some estimates, it reaches a constant drone of over 80 decibels, prolonged exposure to which is considered hazardous to one’s hearing. A grandmother, a braver soul than us (and a native Allahabad ), went to the Kumbh Mela in 2001 and came away awed by its ceaseless din.
 But she also came away impressed. The Kumbh Melas in Allahabad have become incredible feats of mass-scale planning, and the event in 2001 was noted for its lack of incident and the smoothness of its proceedings. Some 30,000 police officers are deployed to patrol the camp grounds; dozens of pontoon bridges spring up across the mighty rivers; the transient city that emerges is replete with cell-phone towers, makeshift hospitals, fountains and wells that pump clean drinking water, sewage facilities, a security apparatus threaded together by CCTV cameras and myriad markets and food kiosks. The scale of the operation is so unprecedented that a cross-disciplinary team of Harvard scholars, under the aegis of the university’s South Asia Institute, is attending the Mela this year in a bid to analyze the economy and logistics of what they’ve dubbed a "pop up megacity"

Tens of Millions Gather at India’s Maha Kumbh Mela
 According to a separate team of academics, what was once “horrid spectacle” for outsiders is now not only instructive but also actually good for you. Based on six years of studying smaller Melas on the Ganges, a group of Indian and Western researchers have published a paper in PLOS One journal arguing that the experience of participating in such mass, collective rites has long-term benefits for the individual. Compared with a sample group not attending the festival, those who did, the study found, reported improvements both in their health and broader state of well-being. The cause for that, researchers say, is not the result of being immersed in the Ganges’ muddied waters, but the act of discovering oneself amid an endless sea of others bent on the same spiritual quest. Stephen Reicher, a psychologist at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, who worked on the study, writes in the Guardian:

Tens of Millions Gather at India’s Maha Kumbh Mela

The analysis… shows it is the sense of intimate social relations – that we are not alone, that we can call on others, that these others form a “social safety net” for us – that creates improvements in well being once [devotees] leave the Ganges and go back to their everyday lives.
Photo taken by Life Photographer James Burke in 1953 congregation of Kumbh Mela not published till now.
If that’s the case, then maybe the ancients Indians — and the tens of millions journeying to the confluence of the rivers now — are onto something. 
We the present generation has to learn a lesson or two from this great congregation and plan to organise and men management.
 Acknowledgements: Ishaan Tharoor,Staff writer for TIME Magazine. TIME World & Photographers and other various sources.