Friday, February 5, 2010
By AJAY RAMOLA
HARIDWAR, 13 Jan: Kumbh Mela 2010 has opened the doors of self-employment for the unemployed youth of Uttarakhand, as they have found a new source of income in the crowd converging at the ghats, here, for the first ‘snan’ of Makar Sakranti on 14 January.
Shalendar Kumar, an unemployed youth from Deoprayag is selling ‘Rudraksh’ beads and guide books to the devotees coming from all over the country.
Kumar is of the view that, as there are no employment opportunities in the hills and new jobs are hard to come by, some temporary reprieve can be had by selling Rudraksh beads this Kumbh. To support his family back home, he has tied up with a local wholesaler to procure various items.
He gets up at around 8 a.m. and by evening he is able to earn around Rs 300, every day. If things go well this Kumbh, he will be able to save for his family for leaner seasons, making them able to fend for themselves in the process.
Another such person is Shiva, a young boy who earns his daily bread by looking for coins offered to the Ganga by devotees with a self-prepared device (basically magnets tied to a rope). Showing his collection of rare coins, including a Nepalese coin issued by Raja Gyanendra Vir Vikram Shah during his reign. He says gleefully that this is one Rupiah of Nepal.
When asked how much he earns from this activity, he asserts proudly that these coins fetch him up to Rs 200 daily, from which he gives half to his mother and the rest is kept for his meals and other small needs. The illiterate Shiva does not have a father and never got the opportunity to read or write, as he had to work at a young age. He says this is the first Kumbh Mela for him and hopes that it will change his luck and bring in more income to the family.
This Kumbh, many such unemployed youths are converging on the banks of the Ganga in search of various avenues of employment, feeding their families in the process. Some might even put together seed money for future entrepreneurial ventures, if the going is good.
Faith overcomes cold as more than million take dip in Ganga at Haridwar
BY AJAY RAMOLA
MUSSOORIE, 14 Jan: The fear of cold affecting the First Snan at the Maha Kumbh was laid to rest today as Hindus of all denominations in large number took a dip at the Brahm Kund (Har-Ki- Pauri) at Haridwar on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti, ushering in the start of the Kumbh Mela 2010. According to the Kumbh Mela Officer Anand Bardhan, more than 10 Lakh pilgrims took the holy dip in the Ganga on an incident free first day of bathing at the Kumbh Mela 2010.
The ‘snan’ began as early as midnight and the devotees kept arriving in large numbers at the ghats amidst tight security. A more than 16,000 strong force ensured that no untoward incident took place. ADG Satyavrat Bansal and IG, Garhwal, MA Ganapathy ensured the safety of pilgrims at the ghats in person. In addition to this, DGP Subhash Joshi also arrived at the scene at noon.
Mela Adhikari Anand Bardhan, Mela Official Ajay Rautela, SSP Sanjay Gunjyal, ASP Rajiv Swaroop and senior officials of the police and administration took regular rounds to ensure safety and security of the mela area. The crowds swelled with the rising sun and more than 2.5 lakh devotees had taken their dips by 8:15 a.m. The endless sea of humanity walked several kilometers as the roads were cordoned off outside Haridwar city by police.
At the ghats, the outpouring of emotions was evident and the oldest religion in the world renewed its faith with every dip by the devotees. Jamuna Devi and her family from Ahmedabad said, “We had to be here to pay our reverence to Mother Ganga. Cold or warm, it is a question of faith”. Her group from Ahmedabad was the main attraction for the foreign Photo-Journalists, who in search of naked Sadhus were literally sulking at their absence, but the arrival of Jamuna Devi and her family sparked in them a new release of creative energy and she was hounded like a film star due to the colourful Gujarati tribal attire. She posed gleefully in front of the national and international cameras. British photo-journalist Andy was mesmerised by the many colours in the dress. “This can be witnessed only in India,” he added.
Tarun, aged 4 from Delhi, was somewhat in shock after his first dip in the Ganga. “We are trying to inculcate a sense of faith and Hindu tradition in our child ,so that he makes it a point to visit Kumbh even after 12 years,” said his parents.
Ramesh Rathore from Ajmer, aged 52, was glad to be part of the Kumbh, which was his second in succession. Paying his obeisance to Mother Ganga, he said, “For people from Rajasthan, Ganga is not just a river but the soul and life provider, the mother. The first touch of the Ganga brought tears to my eyes.” Raju Thapa, aged 12, from a village in Nepal said that he had never seen so many people at one place in his life. For him it will be moment to cherish.
ASP Rajiv Swaroop, who was motivating the Safai Karamcharis at the Ghat, said that they ought to be alert to any suspicious activities and also promised recognition for a job well done.
David, a Dutch documentary filmmaker, covering the Kumbh for the first time, said that the lure of Naked Sadhus brought him here and he was understanding the culture at the surface and presenting it to the audience back home.
The aged pilgrims were provided assistance by a newly introduced EMRI 108 motorcycle service, which was placed at the Har-Ki-Pauri entrance. They checked Blood Pressure, etc.
Rizwan, a volunteer, said that they had a complete first aid kit in the bike and 20 such bikes had been deployed for the Kumbh.
A veteran at covering the Kumbh, photo-journalist Bhumesh Bharti said that this was the only place in the world where a sea of humanity gathered to perform one task, simultaneously, which is the holy dip in the Ganga. This was the beauty of the Kumbh Mela.
Lost and found at kumbh
The lost and found stories were repeated once again at this Kumbh. According to the Mela officials, 167 missing kith and kin were reunited with the efforts of the police. The continuous announcements also assisted in this. The advent of Mobile Phones also led to smaller number of lost cases this year, as the couples having them were in constant touch with each other. A Chaitanya (name changed) was lost at around 8 p.m. and after persistent effort by the police constables, he was recovered from under the overbridge at the ghats. The joy of the mother and child reuniting was similar to that in the films of lost and found in Kumbh of yesteryears.
Tour operators dupe foreigners at Kumbh
The foreign tourists are having a harrowing time at the Kumbh due to exorbitant prices they are having to pay for their stay here. Nathan (name changed) from the United States, said that he was paying twice the amount for every facility provided by tour operators as promised and that it was unfair and the government ought to look into this seriously if it wanted to promote religious tourism in the state. If things did not improve, they would consider other destinations like Angkor Vat in Cambodia or Bali, which were more tourist friendly.
Ganga waterway secured at Kumbh
The waterways were also guarded well and more than 2 dozen persons were saved from drowning by the well equipped divers on speed boats. They took continuous rounds of the ghats to avoid such incidents the entire day.
Clean Ganga Campaign main issue this kumbh
The discussion on starting a Clean Ganga campaign will be the hot topic for this year’s ‘Dharma Sansad’. The spokespersons of various Akharas have resolved to sort this matter out during this Kumbh to start a campaign for a free flowing and pollution free Ganga. The Akharas will be meeting after their arrival in the camps.
Indian women: Art of changing clothes in public
DEHRADUN, 16 Jan: A common sight at the Har-Ki-Pauri during Maha Kumbh Mela these days is that of women changing clothes in public after taking a holy dip in the River Ganga. For Indian women, it is hard even to imagine changing clothes in public. However, they have to do so here. Although the Administration has made arrangements for them to change their clothes, with the massive number of devotees visiting the place these days, these obviously fall short. With no options left, the women devotees have to change in public.
And, therein lies the art of changing clothes in public, revealing next to nothing under the watchful eyes of hordes of men. The Indian women, maintaining their modesty, do not jump into the water in anything like swimsuits. They prefer to wear salwar-kurtas, gowns or wrap themselves in their petticoats right up to their chests. As such, bathing with men in the vicinity does not pose much of a problem for them. Later, changing the wet clothes is.
“What to do, with shelters overcrowded and with wet clothes on, we can’t wait in the cold for so long for our turn,” said one of the devotees. These women have devised several ways to change in public, that too with exposure at the bare minimum. They use the ‘strength in numbers’ philosophy. While one woman changes, the others screen her from all the four directions. Others, fewer in number, find some corner of a wall and change there. They even huddle in groups to preserve their modesty. They also adopt the technique of pulling their petticoats up to the chest and change under it, or hold a towel or cloth around themselves. Many opt for large sized clothing while bathing, to have greater space while changing later.
For these women, bathing alongside men and changing in public does not cause much embarrassment, as it is a religious place, and the consciousness is tuned to more sacred things. Everyone is transported, lost in their own thoughts. This is among the few places in conservative India where the strict rules on the female dress code are relaxed, at least briefly.
Several permanent and temporary structures have been constructed, tents erected, by the administration as preparations for the Kumbh Mela, but, apart from near Brahmakund, that too few in number, no enclosed place for changing clothes is available.
As such, the art of changing clothes in public comes in handy for these women folk.
(Article was written by LP Thapa a friend in Gharwhal post)