Experts Decode Kumbh Mela as it Begins Today with Online Appointments for Bathing, e-Passes, Crowds

Industry Watch | January 14, 2021 | Feature

Kumbh Mela Punneet Sobti Dalveer Singh Dialogue Factory

In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hindu pilgrims from all over India have descended on the banks of the River Ganges in Haridwar for the seven-week Kumbh Mela, beginning today. The only difference is that most of the traditions and rituals are being regulated by the administration so as to prevent overcrowding and strict COVID-19 guidelines are in place at Haridwar for the safety of pilgrims. At every Kumbh Mela, special significance is attached to bathing in the holy river, which is called the Shahi Snan. However, due to the pandemic this year, pilgrims will have to make an online appointment to bathe in the waters and secure an e-pass to enter the bathing ghats. Devotees cannot spend more than a few minutes in the waters. This year, 107 bathing ghats will be colour-coded into red, green and yellow, according to vulnerability. As per reports, the entire premises will be mapped by GIS satellites to limit large concentrations of crowds in any particular area, for the entire duration of Kumbh Mela upto April 27.

How has COVID-19 affected Kumbh?

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to Kumbh experts Punneet Sobti, Kumbh Mela and MICE Specialist and Dalveer Singh, Head, Experiential Marketing - APAC, Dialogue Factory to know more about the impact of COVID on this year’s Kumbh Mela, as well as challenges and opportunities for brands at the religious congregation.

Speaking about the impact of COVID on Kumbh Mela 2021, Punneet Sobti said, “The Kumbh Mela, the world's largest congregation of pilgrims, is a grand event that affects everyone from a small businessman to a big entrepreneur. It is quite true that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the current Kumbh Mela 2021. But I firmly believe that nothing holds in India before faith. The person who takes a holy dip in the Ganges during Kumbh Mela has faith in God that nothing will happen to him/her, and at the same time, he/she will have to follow all the guidelines given by the Government.”

‘Businesses must dive into the digital revolution’

Talking about Kumbh Mela with respect to local traders and other businesses, especially the tourism industry, Sobti said, “As a new-age businessman and spiritually aware soul, I would like to advise everyone to understand the importance of virtual events in this era of technology and dive into the digital revolution. Bring your shops on the Internet, organize events virtually, and make your mark around the world.”

“The world is our market and we can reach anywhere with a single click or a tap on the mobile. There are many challenges during any big event and Kumbh is one of the biggest events in the world. Until last Kumbh Mela, we were unaware of the potential of the Internet and couldn't think of organizing a virtual event. On the contrary, COVID-19 has unleashed the power of digital media and proved that events can still be organized and enjoyed virtually without being physically present,” added Sobti.

For brands, it’s wait and watch strategy at Kumbh

“We need to wait and watch till the first few bathing dates and then deploy strategy, knowing what number of people are coming physically there. Digital will be the easiest way for location-based marketing through mobile because, as we know, it is spread across over 150 sq km area of the Mela and anybody who is coming to visit there would be the audience. So, mobile will play a big role and so would the Digital and static media, as brands will then plan activations,” said Dalveer Singh. “But, Kumbh is all about congregation of people and physically taking a dip in the holy waters is the most important aspect. So, I don’t think we can take the physical part away from the whole experience of Kumbh.”

Sobti added, “In the last Kumbh, merchants had fewer resources for advertising, but now it can be done through social media. Earlier at Kumbh, there used to be uncertainty for hotel booking, but now the Tourism industry and online travel agencies have solved this problem.”

Awareness drive in ‘Kumbh Kshetra’

During the recently held Congregations India Summit, offering a word of advice for the Government, Sobti had said, “I would request the Government to not complicate the process of these fairs as pilgrims who visit these religious places are simple, common people. It’s necessary to promote the importance of Kumbh Mela through various channels to generate awareness on why it is held.”

Adding to that, he said, “Even in these pandemic times, considering everyone's safety, we'll put our heart and soul to make this Kumbh Mela grand and full of zeal and enthusiasm.”

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Uttarakhand State Disaster Response Force (SDRF) has also launched an awareness campaign in Haridwar, with eight teams of the SDRF deployed in the 'Kumbh Kshetra' to carry out the campaign and educate more than 11,000 local residents, devotees and others combating the pandemic situation. 

Apart from bathing at the ghats by online appointment, pilgrims can experience satsangs, prayers, spiritual lectures, langar meals and chants of the saints during their walk to the ghat. Other attractions during Kumbh Mela are the places to be visited in Haridwar like Har Ki Pauri, Mansa Devi Temple, Daksh Mahadev Temple, Chandi Devi temple and many others.

EVENTFAQS Media reached out to Kumbh experts Punneet Sobti and Dalveer Singh to know more about the impact of COVID, challenges and opportunities for brands at the holy gathering.

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