December 13, 2009 – Day Trip with the Arora’s, Info Re: KumbhaMela and Special Break from Panchakarma

December 13, 2009 – Day Trip with the Arora’s and Special Break from Panchakarma

My travelling companions for the day

Dr. Arora invited me to come along with his wife Manju and my friend Reingard on a ½ day outing today. Sunday he only works ½ day. It sounded like a nice idea and when I heard there would not be a lot of walking around, as well as lunch at their house, I jumped at the offer.

But when I asked about what I would be able to eat at their house, he said “anything you want today…you have a holiday”, and well, he IS the doctor, and if HE said it’s Ok, who am I to contradict him…and it couldn’t have been a better way to end my first 3 weeks and begin my last three weeks. I think it should be a permanent part of the 6 weeks program!
It was a special lunch as it was also Reingard’s going away meal and included sahi paneer, subji with potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, palao, chapatti and sweets. And you simply cannot beat Manju’s cooking ever! I had a real treat and couldn’t stop eating.
We then set off for our trip towards Haridwar to see what preparations were already in effect, or being made, for the Kumbha Mela which begins mid-January. Before I say anything else, just a few words about the Kumbh. It takes place

place in 4 different locations, once every 3 years, which means each local gets to host it once every 12 years. Each of the cities has special holy significance but I honestly do not remember what each one represents. And then there is a ½ Kumbh which takes place in Haridwar every 6 years, and although it is not a full Festival, it still attracts an enormous amount of people. Now, Dr. Arora says that at least because of this they benefit from new roads every six years, which means they have fairly good roads for at least 3-4 years out of the six. I can attest to the fact that since I have been coming to Rishikesh, over 3 years, the roads have been terrible, but now, it is hard to believe but just about every place you look, the roads are being retarred or new roads built completely. So I guess for the next 3 years they will be OK. Understand that the amount of people of attending a Kumbh are about 60 million!!! Yes, 60 million!!! It is the largest gathering of human beings on the face of the earth and the crowds can be seen from satellites… All the saddhus from India find their way to the Holy days, as well as Indians from every state in the country and people from all over the world. 60 million is a REAL lot of people. Take into consideration that the city of Haridwar, hosting this year, has a total population of about 600 thousand, and you can begin to imagine the logistical nightmares associated with this type of thing. We asked about safety, health etc., and dr. arora said that very few people ever get sick or need medical attention for disease, since there are so many fire ceremonies and incense burning etc., that the air is clean of bacteria etc. (at least that is his opinion), but every year there are at least 2-3 incidents of stampedes and people be killed or seriously injured in this way. Apparently all the doctors in the three States of Uttarakand (where Haridwar is), Uttra Pradesh and Punjab are on call. In addition, 160 doctors from all over the country are brought in specially to man the tent hospitals set up all over .

Example of Tent Camp

The entire area from 45 kilometers outside of Haridwar in the direction of Delhi will be set up with tent camps, ashrams, restaurants etc., and this will be repeated going all the way up to Laxshman Jhula in Rishikesh, 30 kilometers in the other direction. A total of 75 kilometers along the Ganga will be home to these 60 million people for the days they are here between January and April!!
We were able to get a few glimpses of the preparations as you can see from the pictures, but it is impossible for me to truly comprehend how something of this magnitude can actually take place.
I will see a small part of it in Rishikesh next month and will hopefully have some pictures to send off, if I survive my outing on one of the bathing days.
So, what we saw of the preparations were the following:
New roads: Not only old ones being widen for the unprecedented number of vehicles expected for the first time this year, a reminded of the new prosperity for many in India, but many new roads were being built. You can see one example here:

New Roads

Areas being cleared to be filled with tents

One contractor is in charge of all of the logistics for everything…seems impossible…you might want to contact him next time you have a big job to put together:

Kumbha Mela Contractor

New ghats: an entire section along the ganga has been cleared for tent cities and along this area, new ghats are being built so people have easy access and more access, to the Ganga.
Fancy new shops for westerners: All the top brand names in Europe have found their way to Haridwar and “set up shop” hoping to make lots of money from the Westerners arriving and the rich Indians as well.
New ashrams: Many new ashrams have been built, and older ones enlarged and they are, of course, all fully booked.
New bus stand with areas designated for each different state: There is a piece of land in the center of Haridwar where usually nothing takes place (perhaps squatters live there, I don’t’ know), which is set up each Kumbh for the myriad busses which arrive from all over he country. And within this compound, each state is designated a certain area which is marked so people know exactly where to go to get busses to and from their own states when they need to travel.
It all seems like something that can happen only in India, where no particular concern is centered around sanitation, health care facilities, garbage disposal, and general safety. I doubt anything like this could take place anywhere else in the world without years of preparation prior to the event. Here, it is less than a month away and hardly anything is anywhere near finished. As a matter of fact, most things seem to be just at the beginning stages of progress. But of course, here in India: Saab Kuch Milega…anything is possible.
In addition to seeing all this, we drove further along the road towards Delhi to see a new modern ashram built about 5 years ago. Patanjali Research and Medical Center is its official name, and it is a full care medical facility based on the principles of Ayurveda but offering allopathic medical treatments as well, including minor surgery, x-rays, ultra-sound and opthamology where necessary.
You can see from the pictures how modern and beautiful it is,

Entrance to Patanjali Research and Medical Center

and yet inside, after only 5 years, you can see the usual dirty walls and wear and tear everywhere you go. It is just the way things are in India.
The main hall and waiting room is still impressive

You can see more pictures in the full gallery at the end of the post….it is was really a stunning place.

We stopped at their cafeteria where you can get a light meal, but mainly every type of Indian sweet you can think of…not at all healthy to any westerners way of thinking, but according to Dr. Arora, what better way to end a visit to the doctor or some unpleasant treatment, than by having a nice up of chai and some sweets! The best thing for the soul. He has a point. Like doctors and dentists giving lollypops to kids who come to their clinics. So, we also sat down for some, and although I didn’t eat any sweets as they are always much too sweet for me, I DID have my first cup of chai in 3 weeks, and it was sooooooooooo delicious. The doctor and his wife couldn’t stop laughing at me and my oohs and aahhhs as actually, there probably was nothing special at all about the chai.

It was, all in all, a lovely day, with lovely company, and I came home for a dinner of my own homemade soup, which was just perfect.
And to make a perfect day even better, all of my kids were gathered together at one daughter’s house to celebrate Hanuka, the festival of lights, so just before going to sleep I called there and got to speak to them all in one phone call. Can a day have been any more perfect? True blessings always.


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