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Kaushal Kishore March 2, 2013
The huge crowd of devotees and saints has returned from Prayag Kumbh. But official announcement of its closing will be only after the bathing festival of Shivaratri. Having third Shahisnan on Vasant Panchami the saints of akharas had already returned to their places. After the holy dip on Magh Purnima even kalpavasi pilgrims went back. Kumbh administration is now eagerly waiting for Shivaratri. Silence began to spread over the Kumbh City day-by-day. Amidst this silence there are many artists, painters and activists dedicated to the protection of small rivers, and now they began to entertain with lively presentations. Many of these artists come from different parts of the globe.
Kumbh Mela in Hardwar and Prayag start in beginning of the year. The gatherings of Kumbh on the banks of Gautami Ganga and Kshipra rivers differ in many ways from these two occasions. The evident proof of this variation is visible in weather condition to the crowd of pilgrims. The grandeur of Prayag began to appear on Triveni Sangam since Makar Sankranti onwards. Although there are three Shahisnan of Naga saints. The Kumbh of Allahabad consists of five main bathing occasions including Makar Sankranti, Mouni Amavasya, Vasant Panchami, Magh Purnima and Shivaratri. The huge crowd of devotees gathers at the confluence of the holy rivers. The kalpavasi participate in the Magh Mela between Makar Sankranti and Magh Purnima. Every twelve years this gathering turns out to be the Kumbh Mela, meanwhile in the sixth year Ardha-Kumbh takes place.
After fourth bathing occasion, people returned from the Kumbh City to their habitat. On 10th March, after the holy dip on Shivratri Mela administration will also declare the end of festivals. Meanwhile, on the occasion of Mauni Amavasya the crowd of millions of people gathered in Prayag. It was a historical occasion. On the same day more than 35 people died in the stampede caused by mismanagement. This was not the first incident of stampede in the rush of devotees and pilgrims. Almost every occasion of Kumbh recorded some unfortunate accidents. Before this, in 2010 Hardwar Kumbh a major accidental stampede was witnessed. The history of first Prayag Kumbh of Independent India discloses the narrative of death of hundreds of people. The accounts of all such events are recorded in the archives of the state. Despite all these the celebration of Kumbh is synonymous with the desire of immortality.
The huge gathering of Kumbh is recognised on international level as a glorious event of celebration of devotion and faith. Nearly nine million people from all over the world participated in Prayag Kumbh. The world’s largest gathering takes place in doab of the Ganga and Yamuna. The festival of Kumbh is being celebrated since prehistoric times. Time to time many great masters played important roles to enrich this celebration. Adi Shankaracharya was foremost among them. He had recognised the importance of Kumbh in order to keep the religion alive, and evolved an effective plan. It is a result of his broad vision that Kumbh is still celebrated in similar order. In more recent times, the issue of fake Shankaracharya came onto the fore during the occasions of Kumbh. This controversy also dominated here in Allahabad. Certain acharyas opposed the Kumbh on the name of impure water of the Ganges and cross road on the name of Shankaracharya, however, this conflict was not taken seriously. These big challenges are needed to be addressed properly; otherwise it can result in complex and fatal consequences in the future.
In Bihar, the cause of rivers was raised in seventies by the activists of J.P. (Jay Prakash) Movement. Later devotees of Ganga also contributed remarkably in this regard. The saint like Gangaputra Nigamananda dedicated his life like the Dadhichi. But all are not Gangaputras. There is a huge army of unworthy sons in the field. This time in Prayag Kumbh acharyas also raised out loud voices on the issue of polluted waters of holy rivers. Almost all religious leaders stood in opposition to contaminated river water. Certain influential saints inflicted threats not to participate in Kumbh in absence of pure water in the Ganga. Such superficial threats by these eminent saints has now become common, however, serious contemplation on the issue, its truthful assessment and appropriate action are needed in this direction.
The discussion on preservation of the holy rivers by the religious leaders gathered in Prayag Kumbh can begin a good initiative. The acharyas engaged in the business of religion initiated the campaign to save holy cows years ago. Today, they run their shops on the name of the holy cattle. The sensitivity of saints on the issue of the Ganges indicates towards worthwhile initiative. On the other hand, opening of new business on the name of preservation of the Ganga cannot be denied. Today, hefty amount is being collected from pilgrims and devotees on account of protecting the holy river. Meanwhile certain religious leaders in Prayag began nomenclature of their disciples on the name of rivers. On the other hand pilgrims and devotees saw the growing army of Shankaracharyas and their conflicts, as thus they commenced naming them on the name of the same rivers. Pilgrims have their own logic. A kalpavasi from far-flung village of Jharkhand, Shankar Lal came up with frank arguments. He says that the Vedic period ended as soon as the priestly community that boasts the honour of the mantras, when they failed to reveal the Gods in ritualistic worship based on the Vedas. Similarly anyone can claim to be the Shankaracharya today. But if you raise a question to verify their claim most of them simply run away mischievously. In such a situation, devotees have started naming these acharyas on the name of small and large rivers, ponds and wells only to keep the memory of Adi Shankaracharya alive.
Meanwhile, a couple employed here initiated a campaign to save creeks and rivulets in the Kumbh. Brijendra says that the river originates at Gaumukh, in the upstream of Gangotri is not called Ganga, but Bhagirathi. In fact, there are three main streams of the Ganga i.e. Alakananda, Mandakini and Bhagirathi in the Himalayas. After their confluence at Devprayag the river is called Ganga. Similarly, hundreds of other small creeks and rivulets join the large rivers like the Ganga and Yamuna. The water flowing in the Yamuna at Delhi is dirty. But the water is relatively clean here in Allahabad. It is relevant to mention here that between Delhi and Allahabad stretch, India’s cleanest river Chambal merges in the Yamuna at Etawah. Eradication of pollution of the Ganga is possible if cleanliness of these small rivers is ensured. All these aspects are particularly important in the protection of rivers. Monika Arya noticed these facts before she launched the campaign to save small rivers—creeks and rivulets.
The movement to save creeks and rivulets has accelerated by the end of Mahakumbh. The state coordinator of the campaign Monica Arya began to boost up her exercise on national and international levels. Here this campaign is being duly noticed and supported. During Kumbh painters, artists and experts associated with Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam began to explore creative dimensions of it. These artists have initiated making artefacts since last week in the Kumbh City. Recently an international level working committee to save small rivers has been formed here. Ganga devotees like A.K. Douglas and Ravi Ranjan have been appointed to coordinate the campaign on international level. A special team of experts has been formed to recognise and search all creeks and rivulets of the country.
The presence of Karmayogi on the campaign to conserve natural resources is progressively increasing. The movement for small streams began to be supported. The presence of Gandhian activist P.V. Rajagopal and J.P. Movement leader Putul Didi in their Kumbh camp is its testimony. Anna Hazare and Jalpurus Rajendra Singh have shown active interest in the movement. Yogis and politicians are speaking up in support of the movement. The presence of Kriyayogi Satyam and David Lynch, former Mayor from Ohio province of USA is enough to understand it. Saints and storytellers have also shown significant activity as well. The diligent masters like Devakinandan Thakur and Shankaracharya Adhokshajananda Dev Tirth, who arrived in Kumbh from bank of the Mahanadi are pledged to walk on the same pace. These days, Rakesh Mishra, Coordinator of U.P. Municipal Councillors Association (Uttar Pradesh Nagar Parshad Mahasabha) dedicated his days and nights. The assessment of seriousness of the issue had initiated in different parts of Uttar Pradesh last year itself. In addition to Nagar Nigam and Nagar Palika, public representatives in district and village level panchayats were also involved in this discussion. In the wake of these activities, the activists of the campaign are hopeful for pleasant future.
Hayam and Hesham Taha are also present in the Kumbh City. They have shown their activism in Egypt on the issue of the Nile and her tributaries. This artist couple evolved unique ways to warn people through artefacts. The legendary artists, painters, filmmakers from Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and China have shown interest in the initiatives to save Indian rivers. They have not left any stone unturned by giving the example of Latin American martyr, Che Guevara to boost the morale of their Indian colleagues. Certain people from the Mumbai film industry also appeared on this issue. Pankaj Mistry, who is associated with the silver screen, is camping in Chhoti Nadiyan Bachao Camp in Kumbh City with his crew. Rohit Suri also arrived from Delhi to give them his active support.
The campaigners gathered in the Kumbh City have studied the issue deeply. The director of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam A.K. Douglas says that they will share the results of their study with common people in order to generate awareness. In fact, a truthful effort to save creeks and rivulets could be initiated from here itself. He accepts that the effects of disturbances in basic amenities of cities cause pollution of rivers, and it is responsible for their plight. Today, no one is ready to take responsibility of these cases. The local self governance policy was devised during the British period. The top national leaders like Mahamana Malaviya, Nehru and Subhash accepted it as the concept of nation building. Today, artists and activists in collaboration with common people again pioneered to pursue the same program.
Artist Douglas led a couple of dozen artists from different corners of the globe, as thus they gathered here for that purpose by the end of the Kumbh. They have started creation of artefacts from waste substances on the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and invisible Saraswati. The large number of devotees and pilgrims along with local people are reaching their camp. This awareness program is not confined to Kumbh camp itself. Monika Arya says that preparation for the nationwide movement is in full swing. They will march towards Delhi after Mahakumbh. It is pertinent to mention here that P.V. Rajagopal and Jalpurush Rajendra Singh are leading a public awareness rally. Thousands of farmers joined this rally, they will reach the national capital to make an appeal to the Government of India. In case it is required the movement will be further intensified.
Today, small streams also need adquate attention along with the large rivers. Since large rivers like the Ganges and Yamuna consist of several small rivers. Therefore, in absence of freely-flowing pure creeks and rivulets the cleanliness of the holy rivers is beyond imagination. The movement to save creeks and rivulets is the great resolution of Prayag Mahakumbh. The diligent activists along with certain kriyayogi and religious leaders are exploring the possibilities.
Kaushal Kishore is the author of The Holy Ganga