News / Asia

Many Get Lost at World's Largest Religious Gathering

Pilgrims, Holy Leaders Travel to Kumbh Mela, World's Largest Religious Gatheringi
X
February 05, 2013 3:07 PM
Every 12 years in India, tens of millions of pilgrims and Hindu holy leaders travel to the Kumbh Mela, a temporary city erected on a flood plain where the sacred Yamuna and Ganges rivers merge. The enormous crowds that gather for ritual bathing are a hallmark of the world’s largest religious gathering -- and a challenge for organizers who say as many as 20,000 people can get lost in a single day. Rebecca Byerly reports for VOA from Allahabad.

Pilgrims, Holy Leaders Travel to Kumbh Mela, World's Largest Religious Gathering

Rebecca Byerly
— Every 12 years in India, tens of millions of pilgrims and Hindu holy leaders travel to the Kumbh Mela, a temporary city erected on a flood plain where the sacred Yamuna and Ganges rivers merge. The enormous crowds that gather for ritual bathing are a hallmark of the world’s largest religious gathering - and a challenge for organizers who say as many as 20,000 people can get lost in a single day.

​Raja Ram Tiwari started a group that began helping lost people at the Kumbh Mela in 1947.  He says that in that first year year, he used a megaphone for announcements. Now, thousands of loudspeakers announce the names and descri
Organizers, using pen and pad, record missing persons names to be broadcasted on megaphoneOrganizers, using pen and pad, record missing persons names to be broadcasted on megaphone
x
Organizers, using pen and pad, record missing persons names to be broadcasted on megaphone
Organizers, using pen and pad, record missing persons names to be broadcasted on megaphone
ptions of the missing all day long.

Pushkar Upadhay works for Tiwari’s group. “People come and tell their problems. We write down their names and where they are from. That paper is then given to me and I make the announcement,” he explained.

That task is difficult in a country with thousands of languages and dialects.  When communication problems occur, they turn the microphone over to the lost people.

It took just a short time for these women from West Bengal to reconnect with their families.

Nearly 18,000 police are patrolling this year’s festival.  Police Inspector General Alok Sharma says, although new technologies such as smart phones and security cameras are making policing easier, many still rely on the old, but reliable loudspeaker system.

“The crowds are such that they are still not that much into computers and things like that," he added. "They would just go back on the basic. That is the announcement system.”

Many of the lost are the elderly and children, whom Sharma says are particularly at risk of being kidnapped.  The U.N. says India continues to have a serious problem with child trafficking.

Sharma says officers remain alert for at-risk kids. “Trafficking of kids in this area is very difficult, but we always look at the kids to see if they have been trafficked from somewhere else,” he said.

Organizers say all of the people who have been reported lost at the Kumbh Mela this year have been reunited with their families.

That is an impressive record in a country where rights workers estimate more than one quarter of the 40,000 children abducted each year go unaccounted for.

But with 20 times more police than most Indian cities and extensive coordination with local partners, Sharma says that the Kumbh Mela model of policing is not likely to be replicated in other parts of the subcontinent.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid