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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital 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.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid