How shall we summarize the mela? like the bottom line of an accounting sheet, numbers get right to the point. The Guinness Book of World Records confirms that no human gathering comes close to the Mela’s 30 million worshipers on a single day. The next contender is Mecca, at two million on one day. Experts say this year’s Mela was the biggest of them all.
70 Million Devotees
Most reports agree that approximately 70 million pilgrims attended the 43-day Kumbha Mela with a record-breaking 30 million worshiping on January 24, the main bathing day. That’s a record for Guinness!
A flood of sadhus from a variety of traditions, including the 13 major akharas (ancient Hindu monastic orders), stayed in thousands of ashrams (most only temporary tents), carpeting the Mela grounds.
1,090 Fire Hydrants
Fire is one of the greatest concerns at the Mela (stampede is another). More than 100 miles of pipeline were specially installed to supply water. Volunteer organizations stood by for crowd control.
The massive Mela police force was wired for action through 28 closed-circuit TVs. And there was plenty to do. Sixty-thousand people, mostly women and children, reunited with families at lost-and-found shelters.
15,000 Street Lights
Some 350 miles of over-head power cables were installed to provide power for 15,000 street lights. The streets were well lit. Vehicular traffic was banned. The power supply never failed through the 43 days.
150 River Patrol Boats
Largely in response to terrorist alerts, 150 police boats patroled the Mela by sea, 10 bomb squads were deployed to defuse mines and 20 commando units from the Nepal border patrol hovered nearby.
13,000 Tons of Flour
Everybody loves chapattis, and 13,000 tons of flour makes about 520 million–eight per pilgrim. Food was abundant and many Mela supplies were sent to Gujarat after the massive January 26 earthquake.
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7,800 Tons of Rice
In north India, where chapattis are king, rice takes second place to wheat. Even so, there was 7,800 tons on hand–enough for 62 million servings. Meat, eggs and alcohol were strictly prohibited at the Mela site.
5,000 Tons of Sugar
Would you like sugar with your tea? No problem. The Mela’s five thousand tons of sugar put a teaspoon in 170 million cups. Government-subsidized shops sold good food (and tea) at fixed prices.
74 Swiss-Cottage Luxury Tents
Amid the half-million tents covering the crowded Mela grounds, 74 really stood out. They rented for $481 per person for two nights. That’s more than what it costs to stay in a five-star Delhi hotel!
20,000 Public Toilets
Sewer pipelines were upgraded and expanded for a smooth-running network of waste water disposal. There were 20,000 public toilets, and 8,000 people were employed for sanitary maintenance.
60,000 to a Ghat
Although never wider than 350 meters, any one of the three main bathing ghats packed in an estimated 60,000 fervent devotees at any given point in time. Only two drownings were reported this year.
25 Large Pontoon Bridges
Huge bridges built on pontoons the size of trucks were absolutely essential for pilgrims to traverse water everywhere in and through the Mela site. More than 100 miles of new roads were paved.
12 Mela Hospitals
In addition to the 12 hospitals built by the government, local ashrams, relief organizations and shelters provided beds and simple care for the sick, the hurt and the needy.
35 Electrical Power Centers
Thirty-five dedicated substations supplied electricity for the 50-square-mile Mela compound. In addition, charcoal, fire wood and cooking gas were available at controlled prices.