Priyanka Dalal recounts her Kumbh Mela experience and explains why she is all praises for the management.
Over my years of traveling across India I have visited many public gatherings, from the Mysore Dasara to Ganeshotsav in Mumbai. The efforts by authorities have usually been commendable and I am glad to note that the Kumbh Mela 2015 management raises the bar!
When I packed to leave for my first Kumbh Mela experience I was concerned about crowds, unhygienic sanitation, touts and safety but I had a lovely time and noticed some real efforts put in by the administration.
ALSO SEE Kumbh Mela: What you should know if you’re traveling solo
Trimbakeshwar is a small town. As I strolled around, the efforts put into keeping it clean were commendable. I came across streets which were spotless, so rare in India! There were adequate number of dustbins everywhere and the cleaning staff was vigilant. Compare that with Nashik, which, despite being a much bigger city, lacked the same level of cleanliness. However, the areas frequented by the visitors like ghats and temples were maintained very well.
A clean street in Trimbakeshwar
One of the ghat areas near Tapovan in Nashik immaculately clean before the devotees arrive!
2. Tout culture
Typically in religious places simple services become commercial traps and unsuspecting pilgrims get fleeced for lot of money. This did not happen here. Prices of a lot of commodities were standardized.
A bag of flowers is Rs 10; a rain jacket is Rs 10; rickshaw charges were standardized.
As a traveler I usually avoid taxi/rickshaw stands because the prices are usually jacked up. This wasn’t the case in Trimbakeshwar or Nashik at all. In fact when I wanted an auto I would head to the stand because they wouldn’t just give me standard rates but sometimes even give me a discount because I was traveling solo. This is how it should be!
Flower vendors in Trimbakeshwar would keep claiming ‘we are the last vendor before you reach the Temple’ but overall it was still way better than the touting I have seen in other places like Rishikesh and Haridwar.
This has been one of the friendliest events of this scale I have been to in India. Interestingly there was still a lack of any ‘tourist information’ avenues but the police very gladly took up that mantle. They were informed about the various activities taking place, they understood the visitor psyche and were helpful when you asked even simple stuff. They would also often give insider tips and info so you can have a better time. I was really impressed.
4. Temple arrangements
One of the main attractions of this Kumbh Mela is the Shri Trimbakeshwar Temple. With thousands of devotees lining up to visit the temple is no easy matter to manage. The average waiting time was about 4 to 5 hours. A part of the queue was in the open, the other was in an enclosure. I was misinformed here because after waiting for an hour, I thought I would be entering the temple. To my utter shock I realized I was just entering the enclosed part of the serpentine queue.
A 1,000-strong queue crawled in the direction of the temple. As it started raining outside, I realized how useful this shelter was. There was a small metal bench all throughout this section for people to sit on. Dustbins were placed at regular intervals. There was a way for people to visit the toilets midway and then join back in the line. There were wash basins in case people wanted to freshen up. There were also some tea sellers. Bhajans were playing on loudspeakers and people were chanting. It took me three hours to go past this enclosure. By the time i reached the sanctum sanctorum, I had been standing in the queue for four hours!
The sheltered queue area for thousands of people – takes 3 to 4 hours to reach the temple.
Now, despite all the arrangements, the entire area was quite dirty. People chose to ignore the dustbins and throw food plates down behind the bench rather than walk just a few steps and throw them in the dustbin. But when I went to the temple the next day at 6.30 am and the place was impeccably clean! It seemed to me that after the temple closes at 10 pm, the cleaning crew get busy and by 5 am the place is spotlessly clean again! Remember it is quite a big area — tens of thousands would stand here the whole day. Sadly the public doesn’t make an effort to maintain the cleanliness.
After visiting the main sanctum sanctorum, devotees could sit outside in the quiet temple courtyard
5. Ghat area
At the ghats there were many boards providing instructions. Management staff would also keep repeating instructions via public announcement systems. They would at times pull up individuals doing something risky. “Chacha this is not a swimming pool, please don’t swim” or some such.
Read more about Priyanka’s travel experiences on her blog. She is @priyankawriting on Twitter.
Kushavratghat – the main TrimbakeshwarGhat had many boards with instructions for devotees
Frequent boards for the devotees
The huge Ramkundghat in Nashik had an announcement system lining the entire area and at 11 am the Bhagvad Gita would be read out in Hindi.
Ramkund – Nashik’s main ghat
All in all a really good effort by the authorities.
The fact that not a single person went missing this Kumbh Mela stands testimony to the vigilance and support the authorities have provided to the local public. Now, if only the public can be sensitized to maintain these efforts then it will truly be remarkable, don’t you think?
Did you visit the Kumbh Mela? How was your experience?