successful hosting of Maha Kumbh 2013 has earned Uttar Pradesh
Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav an invite from Harvard University to
speak on how the 55-day religious congregation, which attracted
tens of millions of people from India and around the world, went
off like clockwork and was praised its organisation worldwide.
Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan, who has also been
invited for the April 25 event, said it was a matter of great
honour that the efforts of the state government were being
recognized by such a world-famous university.
The varsity would pay all the expenses for the trip.
A 50-member multi-disciplinary team, including faculty and student
researchers from Harvard University, had travelled to Allahabad in
January to document and analyse the processes involved in the
successful Kumbh Mela.
The world's largest religious festival occurs every 12 years and
draws millions of visitors to a temporary, purpose-built tent city
on the banks of the Ganga and the Yamuna. The Kumbh was also
documented by various organisations; over 1,000 journalists had
covered the festival, which concluded March 12.
Harvard's year-long inter-faculty project, coordinated by its
South Asia Institute and its Global Health Institute, was keeping
in mind the "focus on urbanisation", a faculty member told IANS.
"The very fact that to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who
journey to Allahabad to bathe in the sacred confluence of the
Ganga and Yamuna, the Uttar Pradesh government created a temporary
city in the flood plain of the river - that is worth a study," an
"The city, laid out on a grid, was constructed and then
"deconstructed" in a matter of weeks. Within the grid, multiple
aspects of contemporary urbanism come to fruition, including
spatial zoning, an electricity grid, food and water distribution,
physical infrastructure construction, mass vaccinations, public
gathering spaces, and nighttime social events," the official said.
The multi-disciplinary team from Harvard had studied various
aspects of Kumbh 2013 including urbanism, business and public
health and religion at the mela.
Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion and India studies at
Harvard, led a group of graduate and undergraduate researchers who
studied the ritual use of flowers and their environmental impact,
the diversity of sacred trees, pollution and the effects of dams
on the Ganga, the relationship between faith and science and the
'green' Kumbh movement.
The study of urbanism at the Kumbh was done by a team led by Rahul
Mehrotra, who chairs the Department of Urban Planning and Design
at Harvard. Students documented, at a macro-level, the spaces at
the Kumbh mela campus using two and three dimensional media,
including plans and sections, diagrams and perspectives, as well
as aerial photography.
"Among other things, the group explored how the temporal, fleeting
events, including the routes and the physical structure of
settlements functioned together and how the systems that emerged
could be applied to sustainable urban design in other nations and
contexts," Ashok Sharma, the media in-charge of Kumbh, told IANS.
The health surveillance study by Harvard students has also
documented various measures taken by the state government to
control outbreak of diseases and maintain high standards of
sanitation at the Kumbh.
Describing the Kumbh mela campus as "India's mega pop-up city" the
reports of various studies, researchers say, have been
illuminating. Akhilesh Yadav's visit, an official said, is not
only set to shed more light on various aspects of arrangements
during Kumbh but would also "pep up the credibility of the state
government on the international stage".
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