The successful hosting of Maha Kumbh 2013 has earned Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav an invite from Harvard University to speak on how the 55-day religious congregation, which attracted millions of people from India and around the world, went off like clockwork and was praised worldwide.
Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan, who has also been invited for the April 25 event, said it was a matter of great honour that the efforts of the state government were being recognised by such a world-famous university.
The varsity would pay all the expenses for the trip. A 50-member multi-disciplinary team, including faculty and student researchers from Harvard University, had travelled to Allahabad in January to document and analyse the processes involved in the successful Kumbh Mela.
The world’s largest religious festival draws millions of visitors to a temporary, purpose-built tent city on the banks of the Ganga and the Yamuna. Harvard’s year-long inter-faculty project, coordinated by its South Asia Institute and its Global Health Institute, was keeping in mind the ‘focus on urbanisation’, said a faculty member.
“The very fact of being able to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who journey to Allahabad to bathe in the sacred confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna, the Uttar Pradesh government created a temporary city in the flood plain of the river — that is worth a study,” an official said.
“The city, laid out on a grid, was constructed and then ‘deconstructed’ in a matter of weeks. Within the grid, multiple aspects of contemporary urbanism come to fruition, including spatial zoning, an electricity grid, food and water distribution, physical infrastructure construction, mass vaccinations, public gathering spaces, and nighttime social events,” the official said.
The multi-disciplinary team from Harvard studied various aspects of Kumbh 2013 including urbanism, business and public health and religion at the mela. The study of urbanism at the Kumbh was done by a team led by Rahul Mehrotra, whochairs the Department of Urban Planning and Design at Harvard.
“Among other things, the group explored how the temporal, fleeting events, including the routes and the physical structure of settlements functioned together and how the systems that emerged could be applied to sustainable urban design in other nations and contexts,” said Ashok Sharma, the media in-charge of Kumbh.
The health surveillance study by Harvard students has also documented various measures taken by the government to control the outbreak of diseases.Akhilesh Yadav’s visit is not only set to shed more light on various aspects of arrangements during Kumbh but would also ‘pep up the credibility of the state on the international stage’.
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