Eck, leading the group and an expert in religious studies, says: “I have been looking at the religious aspects. My colleagues are looking at Kumbh from the point of view of urban planning and designing, public health, environment and medicine.” She has been meeting several of the ascetics and the gurus. The other research groups, from different schools of the HBS, related to this project have not yet visited Kumbh.
On Tuesday, the last day of the group’s stay here, Prof Eck and her group also joined Swami Chidananad Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, in the clean-up drive of Sangam and Qila Ghat here.
Rachele Taylor, another undergraduate member of the team, informs that the team stayed at Varanasi for a few days, getting acclimatised to the “Indian conditions” before coming to Allahabad. In fact, the group was in Varanasi on the day of Makar Sankranti - the first shahi snan, which marked the beginning of Kumbh-2013.
“We stayed away purposely because it is so crowded on the main bathing days. And we wanted to get a picture of the Kumbh beyond that,” says Prof Eck, who has written a book on Sacred Geography of Varanasi and is writing another one on the same subject for India.
Adds Dayno: “Usually, the pictures we get in the West are of the main bathing days, when there is crowd all around. The pontoon bridges are shown chock-a-block. But when we came here, we realised it is all so relaxed. Also, with all the sector system, it all looks so organised. We have been reading and theorising about most of the things here. But coming here has given us an idea of how actually things are.”