MANY religious and spiritual happenings and events take place in Bharat and in many other countries. Bharat being the most ancient place and Hindu being the most ancient dharma, obviously, the spiritual events in Bharat have been taking place for ages together. Kumbh is the unique spiritual event in Bharat that has not only religious and spiritual connotations but also has a very significant social dimension which is not seen and felt anywhere in the world. Of course, most religious-spiritual occasions in Bharat have social aspects attached to them; but the social dimensions of Kumbh have unique grandeur and much larger the significance.
During any Kumbh the most significant social aspect is seen and felt by all is that millions of people from Bharat and the world come together at that one spot of the Kumbh. It is believed that this year’s Haridwar Kumbh so far has been attended by around four crore people and towards the end, there would be yet many more for the last pious bath in Maa Ganga. We are not discussing here the religious aspects of the Kumbh. Even as a society this is the only occasion in the world when so many people come together for so long and nobody knows or bothers about caste, region or language of the person bathing in maa Ganga next to oneself! In modern terms it may be called a ‘melting pot’; but it is much more than that. In a country infested by politicians misusing religions, castes, sub-castes, languages and regions -the phenomenon of bathing in Maa Ganga together, eating in the tents, camps together without even bothering to check other person’s caste, region, language etc is a grand social success of Kumbh going on for ages! They are one. They are all sons and daughters of Maa Ganga!
It is a totally focused large-very large group full of a specific objective. All want to do darshan, poojan of Maa Ganga and bathe in Maa Ganga’s pious waters on pious days. Here is another magnificent socio-historical aspect of the Kumbh: For ages together and for generations together, from the remotest part of southern Bharat to the extreme North East of Bharat and from all other places, without any invitation, people have been coming for various Kumbh be it Haridwar, Prayag, Ujjain or Nasik. On that specific day of transition of the Sun into a particular Raashi, millions of people from millions of places from Bharat simply are there! How do they exactly know when and where to go? Today there is mass media, written panchangs etc. When all this was not there in ancient times, yet they were attending Kumbh! This is the intrinsic inherent strength of Hindu tradition knowledge, social and spiritual values and behavioural patterns are handed over to the next generations in a unique socio-spiritual way.
Modern sociology may not even be able to analyse yet another ‘only one’ about the Kumbh. There are many sects and sub sects of followers of Sanatan Dharma, Jain, Bouddha, Sikh, etc. There are many branches of these and there are specific rules of their own spiritual behaviour. But in Kumbh, they all come, stay in the tents, eat in the tents and camps and bathe in the same one Maa Ganga! No boundaries limit their connectivity with all others in Bharat!
This time there were people even from Pakistan who in spite of brutal atrocities on them there, yet are following their Sanatan or Sikh traditions. They bathed in Maa Ganga, recalled their ancestor’s better days in the areas they have been living and hoped for the best. And even from Bharat, right from those whose living depends on daily wages or on toiling in someone else’s farm or on a rough construction work or dusty, smoky mines etc to those who live comfortable lives in AC houses and cars and don’t travel anywhere without a specific level of stay and food arrangement-All are in the Kumbh-staying on the banks of Maa Ganga, eating in the camps, tents, walking long distances… All this without a word of complaint about any hardship! This bonding they have with Maa Ganga automatically transcends to everyone there and creates an invisible but heartfelt warm connection among all. This is a unique social phenomenon and is worth studying by sociologists.
There is a varied mix and blend of the poorest of poor and simple rural people who carry their potli on their head and somehow reach the Kumbh. With great focus they bathe in Maa Ganga, participate in the Kathas that are going on there and do Maa Ganga Aartis. There are also modern youths wearing pair of Jeans and fancy T-Shirts. They too with equal focus and devotion bathe in Maa Ganga without bothering at all about their well groomed hair or any such things. Those, who-as a fashion-keep on saying that today’s youth is not interested in anything ‘Hindu’ or religious-must see all this with their own eyes. All these millions of people walk, talk, eat on the banks of Maa Ganga, bathe in Maa Ganga and sleep wherever they get place and all this with a great surreal joy in their eyes-they look as if they have just one soul among all of them and that is of a son or daughter of Maa Ganga! That eternally flowing pious water we all respectfully call as our Maa Ganga connects and bonds millions of people there. What a social integrity that is!
There is yet another extremely unique social phenomenon in the Kumbh. Almost 98 per cent people who come to Kumbh get free food. Nobody asks for money, nobody pays for food and all this happens with such an ease as if they all are family members and are at their home… yes, they are! They are with their mother Maa Ganga. But nowhere in the world around 4 crore people eat free like this.Most importantly, although there is such a huge crowd, there is no typical mob mentality. This itself defies all set definitions of modern secular sociology. Huge crowds are there but almost no crime! No murder, no rape, no violence! They walk so much to reach Kumbh and then to reach Maa Ganga, but no fights! In metro-cities even in the posh high-brow cine-halls in a small ticket buying line too people crib and quarrel! Here in Kumbh, so many people wait patiently to bathe in Maa Ganga or to eat. But to squabbles! The very synergy that they have in spite of diverse castes, languages, regions, food preferences etc is that they all are there in the Kumbh with just one objective – bathing in Maa Ganga!
An interesting socio-economic aspect of the Kumbh too is important. When around 4 crore people come to Kumbh, obviously local people in the Kumbh place get work and employment. Recently there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland and they immediately started Volcano Tourism. They bragged that the largest number of tourists visited to see that Volcano. How many was that largest? 10,000! Here we are speaking of millions of people in Kumbh. It generates a great deal of local employment and that too without marketing it as ‘Spiritual Tourism’!
A lot of pure soul sharing happens in the Kumbh. It is not only limited to food, shelter in the tents and bathing in Maa Ganga, but also of thoughts and experiences. Some known, some strangers-all meet in the Kumbh. They get an unique opportunity to share their thoughts with others from other parts of Bharat. Knowledge is gained and imparted too. Experiences are shared. Sants are there to guide but even the common people interact with each other so beautifully! And the tradition continues… The civilization gets enriched! Millions, billions of Yugas these people and their ancestors have been attending Kumbh at specific places… without any invitation! They go there with the feeling of oneness with Bharat as sons and daughters of Maa Ganga and carry a lot back to cherish and hand over to their next generations. This invisible but soulful and heartfelt bond is what makes Bharat a real Civilization… Some years back Tughlak attacked and killed thousands of Sants and Sadhus in Prayag Kumbh. Kumbh did not stop! Tughlaks and his types later on had to leave Bharat. Taking clue from those attacks, Naga Sadhus and other Akhadas started getting prepared for any such Jehadi attacks. This is a socio -spiritual strength that Bharat has which links each however small a village in Bharat to the other. This bond connects all cutting across castes, languages, regions etc. Whatever efforts political parties, seculars etc would do to divide Bharat on such flimsy parameters; they will never succeed because this intrinsic socio-spiritual bond in Bharat is stronger than any might.
We all need to look into these intriguing social dimensions of Kumbh and nurture this focused, synergetic very large group’s one-ness bond to make Bharat socio-politically stronger to take on the modern day challenges and menaces coming in from the modern day Tughlaks! We also must, in out hearts and minds, celebrate the joy of this ancient strong link that ties us all happily and gives all of us a stable sense of belonging!
(The author is a renowned cancer surgeon and International secretary general of VHP. He can be contacted [email protected])