Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath performs rituals ahead of the Kumbh Mela. 
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath performs rituals ahead of the Kumbh Mela. (Photo: AP)
  • 1. Kumbh 2019 – The Spectacle and The Saffron
  • 2. What’s Cooking in the Kumbh?
  • 3. The Annals of Akhadas
  • 4. Will the Script Play Out as Planned?
‘Ardh’ Kumbh 2019 – The ‘Purna’ of Political Ambition

The current government has a habit of remodelling what already exists. Perhaps it started with dismantling the Planning Commission to form the Niti Aayog. Subsequently, it inducted a new tax regime, advanced the date of annual Budget and rechristened the names of cities, et al.

As the Kumbh Mela 2019 gears into action tomorrow, 15 January, its important to see it as a manifestation of this fetish in its very name. Technically, 2019 is an ‘Ardh Kumbh’ year – an event that takes place six years after the ‘Purna Kumbh’ (which is organised every 12 years). But then again, 2019 is also the year of general elections. Visualise the mise-en-scène of this blockbuster: A mega religious event at one of the most prominent pilgrimage seats of the country, situated in the most populous and politically-effervescent state, which is in turn headed by a saffron-clad head of a mutt… All that in the election year.

Taking the liberty to paraphrase poet Amir Khusro, it would be apt to say, “If there exists a heady cocktail of politics and religiosity, Hameen Ast-o Hameen Ast-o Hameen Ast.”

  • 1. Kumbh 2019 – The Spectacle and The Saffron

    ‘Divya Kumbh, Bhavya Kumbh’ – goes the tagline of the mega event slated to begin on 14 January in Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad). If the ‘Divya’ (divine) pitch has the Kumbh glass only ‘Ardh’ (half) full, ‘Bhavya’ (grandeur) ensures that it becomes ‘Purna’ to the brim.

    According to an Economic Times report, Rs 4,200 crore has been allocated for the event. To put things into perspective, the 2013 ‘Purna Kumbh’ was organised at less than third of this amount.

    Old timers of the city said that they have not witnessed this level of grandiosity around the mela. “24 ministers of the state Cabinet have been deputed to invite chief ministers and governors across the country. This is like Raja Janak sending out invitations for Sita’s Swayamvar,” said Kamal Krishna Roy, a practicing lawyer at the Allahabad High Court.

    “Luxury cottages with tariffs up to Rs 29,000 a day have been set up for tourists,” said Roy, who was the President of the Allahabad University Students’ Union (AUSU) in 1990.

    Also Read : From 5-Star Tents to Yoga Classes: Kumbh Mela 2019 Goes Modern

    Widening of roads, erecting LED billboards and applying fresh coats of paint are among the measures being taken in Prayagraj ahead of the Kumbh Mela. However, one theme runs common through the entire beautification process – saffronisation, literally and metaphorically.

    “Roundabouts, bridges and flyovers are being painted in saffron. Walls across the city, including those of Allahabad University, now have graffiti of sadhus (saints),” said KK Pandey, Editor of a local magazine Samkaleen Janmat.

    Pandey also said that a PIL has been filed after a gate constructed by ruler Sher Shah Suri in the 16th century in Prayagraj’s Khusrobagh was razed to widen the road.

    “The gate was of great historical importance. It finds a place in the 1857 battle of Independence and now they have razed it. Naming the city Prayagraj was just the beginning of an agenda of lending a Hindu branding to the city.”
    KK Pandey, Editor, Samkaleen Janmat
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