14th January 2013 is the day of Makar Sankranti, which is a harvest festival just like Lohri. Incidentally it falls on this day every year. This is perhaps because it is calculated as per Solar Cycle which is the basis of Christian Calender as well. Astronomically it means that Sun has moved to Capricorn Zodiac. Makar means Capricorn and Sankrant means movement in which two zodiacs of Capricorn and Cancer shall be joined by Sun for a moment, while passing through the one to another. Every 12 years, on this day, largest congregation of human kind takes place on river banks of rivers Ganga (British called her Ganges) (her because she is a goddess) and Godawari at four places. Allahabad is the most prominent place for Kumbh as the Maha Kumbh (Great Kumbh) after every 144th years takes place here alone. Allahabad is intersection (called Sangam which means amalgamation) of three rivers namely Ganga, Yamuna & Saraswati. On this occasion people take a holy dip in the waters of Ganga and purify themselves from their past sins This bathing is considered holy according to Hindu Mythology.
According to Mr. Jairam Ramesh the then, Minister for sanitation and drinking water:
Rivers are not rivers in India. Rivers have become sewers. The 500-km stretch of Ganga between Kannuaj and Varanasi is just sewer.
I could not have agreed more. The Yamuna river which flows through New Delhi is so dirty that when we pass the bridge over it, the stench overwhelms us even when the car window is rolled up. In 2006 we went to Haridwar, another mythological town, through which river Ganga flows. The stench was so much that none of us could dip a finger in water. It is said that during the rainy season, situation is better. Now Delhi and Haridwar, both are up-stream towns and therefore at Allahabad, where both the rivers meet, has to be more dirty.
Apart from the illiterate masses, various religious organizations (of so-called hermits) also take this opportunity to show their strength in a rather crude way, on the Banks of river, before taking holy dip.
However my curiosity is that knowing that water is so dirty, has any body taken any steps to either treat the river water or to immunize the bathers against possible ill effect? Though I doubt it.
मन चंगा तो कठोती मे गंगा!
(If intentions are correct, bathing in any water can be holy.)
That includes tap water as well as sewer.
For a Kumbh food dish, check out:
© Sandeep Bhalla