Harvard University sees the Kumbh Mela to be unprecedented opportunity to conduct an inter disciplinary research on urban design, buisness, social, sanitation and health perspectives. These researchers have such questions as “how does the price get set in a large group?”, “How do the organizers mobilize the resources in a short span to handle a huge inflow of population”, “what are the security, safety, sanitation issues?”. It also includes a study of mobile phone usage within a dense area of population. During the Mela, an expected attendance of the combined population of Shangai and New York City, is being packed in 12-13 Sq Miles area along river flood plains of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers.

Western media has paid little attention to this spiritual gathering which forms and dissipates every twelve years within a short span of 48 days. The Kumbh Mela gatherings has continued for thousands of years. According to the Mahabharata text, its heroes, Pandava brothers visited the confluence. A seventh century Chinese pilgrim to India, Hiuen Tsang writes about a gathering at this place in his travelogues. The current format of the Kumbh Mela is attributed to have been created by Adi Shankara. Adi Shankara is well recognized as a reformer and proponent of the spirituality of the Vedanta. However, far fewer number of people know him to be the originator of the traditions of Sadhus who throng during the major bathing days.

Astronomically the festival is held when the planet Jupiter is seen in the neighborhood of the prominent Orion star group. This recurs every twelve years. The full moon during the Kumbh Mela perios is seen in the night sky in the vicinity of the star Regulus. The festival ends with the annual Shiva Rathri festival – the celebration of cosmic consciousness. The starting point of the festival is the astronomical event of sun entering the constellation, called in Sanskrit as Makara, which closely corresponds to the constellation Capricon. Winter solstice would have occurred at this junction point a couple of thousand years ago. Perhaps, the tradition of spiritual aspirants gathering together from various parts to exchange ideas has continued for that long. Exchange of ideas has been a long standing human quest!

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