Kumbha – The traditionally modern Mela takes you through the journey that this fascinating festival of humanity is. Thanks to the author and the publishers, I had the book in my hand just a day before I was leaving for the Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj. It was a perfect companion on my two flights to Prayagraj and the waiting time between the flights. By the time I landed at Prayag, I was soaked in the history and legends of Kumbh Mela.
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Organized in 12 chapters to match the 12-year cycle of Kumbh Mela, the book gives you a well-rounded introduction to different dimensions of Kumbh Mela. It begins by introducing the word ‘Kumbh’ that means a pot. However, Nityananda Misra takes you through the verses from Indian scriptures to explain how all the devatas are supposed to live inside a pot. Well, explaining Sanskrit words is an expertise of the author, check out his social media handles.
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You then get the cosmology-based calculations for the dates of all the four Kumbha Melas. If you have no clue about the calculation of dates, the complexity would surprise you. There are stories of why the four places – Haridwar, Prayag, Nasik, and Ujjain host Kumbh Melas.
There are a couple of chapters on people who make it the Mela it is – The Sadhus who intrigue everyone with their numbers and diversity. I am happy that the book also talks about the average pilgrims, travelers and short stay travelers are written in details in this book. Most writers choose to focus so much on the Naga Sadhus that they forget that Naga Sadhus are a small part of the whole Sadhu Samaj and Sadhu Samaj is a part of the whole humanity that turns up at the Kumbh Mela. It helps the reader, and especially someone who is planning to visit to get to know all kinds of people.
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You also get a good insight into the 13 Akhadas that participate in the Kumbha Mela.
Rest of the book looks at the behind the scenes work that goes on to makes Mela so easy for people to visit and enjoy. It talks about it organization at all the four places, the preparations involved and the arrangements made. What I really enjoyed is the integration of technology both for safety and for crowd management. Most of these technologies remain invisible to a common visitor. The scale of the Kumbha Mela is told, but you have to see it to believe it.
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From my own experience at the Kumbha Mela, the technology is really helping manage crowds, help locate lost people, keep an eye on the activities and provide an incredible experience to visitors.
In the end, the author shares his personal journeys to the Kumbh Mela at 3 places and how it impacted him and his life. You could read it as a personal experience. However, it has to be strong enough for him to sit and write a book about it.
Language is simple. Chapters are small and crisp. I would have ideally preferred to read it in Hindi, but as the Hindi version is still not out, I read the English one.
Do read it if Kumbh Mela intrigues you or if you are planning to visit one.