ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Behind the Exotica

Maha Kumbh 2013

The Kumbh Mela is composed of and made by diverse groups of people coming from different places for over the period of three months. Beyond the exotica and the acclaimed effi ciency of the mela administration, there are tens of thousands of invisible workers who sweat to make the event function smoothly. The underside of the mela reveals the gross inequality with which amenities are distributed, with tourists and big religious groups on the one side, and the working poor on the other.

On 22 January 2013, 8,000 workers employed by the Kumbh Mela administration went on a day-long strike, taking over main mela grounds, roads and offices. For far too many days, the administration had ignored the growing unrest and the rising anger amongst the hundreds of workers employed at the mela, with the inhuman living conditions, work times and wage rates. Some civil rights activists of Allahabad formulated a list of demands such as an increase in wages, regulation of working hours, uniforms for workers, improvement in living conditions, etc, and put it across to the magistrate and consequently, the strike was called off with the promise that these will be met by the end of January.

There is a dominant image of the Maha Kumbh which consists of both the continuity of devotion and the exotic. Behind this, however, there are thousands of workers as well as those with small jobs at the mela. This side gets completely overshadowed by the glamour of the mela. It is worth understanding who these workers are and why there is a growing discontent on their part with the mela.

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