Thursday, January 18, 2018
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A lot of hue and cry is being  raised over the crowds which came for a dip in the Sangam on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in the Mahakumbh currently on. We came across headlines: ‘Where were the crowds?’ The Chief Minister too seemed to have been convinced by the argument of those who might have been trying to prejudice him against the Mela organizers by saying that exaggerated figures of expected pilgrims were deliberately given to attract more funds.

But I would like to say that judgment in this regard should not be given so hastily. In fact the judgment should be reserved till the Mauni Amavasya day.
I will reproduce an extract from this very column which appeared during the Ardh Kumbh bathing days. I wrote this after watching the crowds that came both for Makarsankranti and Mauni Amavasya. I reproduce the piece:
“ I watched the Makar Sankranti TV coverage and I viewed the scenes on the electronic media on Mauni Amawasya. There was a world of difference so far as crowds are concerned. On the Makar bath one could see empty space on the ground. The plea taken was that the bathing festival had taken place on two days. Hence the crowd was divided. But on Mauni day one could notice that the crowds were many times more; and what was a delight to watch was that the movement of pilgrims was very orderly and in a disciplined manner. The proper demarcation of even boat-ways on the rivers was noticeable. On TV screen we saw how peaceful the bathing process was. Even small lads were seen gleefully taking a dip to say nothing of men, women of all ages. The glimpses of the movement of Akharas, the saints and others added to the appeal of the presentation”
This ‘world of difference’ might be noticeable this year too. Why Makar crowds didn’t swell on expected lines was presumably because of the very cold weather that had just preceded the bathing day. There were apprehensions that fog may continue and so trains would be delayed. Hence many people must have given up the idea of coming for the Makar bath. This time there is a fairly big margin between the Makar and the Mauni baths. The Mauni Amavasya falls on February 10. By that time the weather is expected to become warmer though one cannot over-rule the possibility of rains which do come dancing around these bathing days. The Makar bath took place in sunshine.  However, the Mauni bath is supposed to be far more important for achieving salvation. If crowds do not swell even by Mauni Amavasya, it would mean that pollution has kept the people away. Incidentally,  a report says that social psychologists from British and Indian Universities have found that Kalpvasis—the pilgrims who live in the Sangam area for one month in January, eating just one meal a day, return home healthier despite the  Ganga pollution. Why and how their health improves when the general impression is that they live in messy conditions is for experts to say. But now the belief is confirmed by   researchers. With such research findings acquiring publicity, one may expect that people would not be kept away by the pollution scare.


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