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At Simhasthya-Kumbh, sadhus pledge to protect Mother Earth

As this ancient and holy city of Madhya Pradesh gears up for one of the biggest religious gatherings of Hindus, Simhastha-Kumbh Mela, which will commence this Friday, millions of saffron-clad sadhus camping at the mela site and residents share a common feeling – “This time it’s going to be different.”

Called ‘Green Sinhastha’ by the state government, it is expected to end up with a strong massage for a larger battle to save our environment.

“Hindus need to expand their concept of dharma to include considering the effects of our actions on all human beings, doing our part to ensure we have a functioning, abundant and bountiful planet,” says Swami Narendra Giri, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad – the apex organisation of Sikh and Hindu Sadhus (Ascentics).

He says the day is auspicious. “People all over the world are planting trees to observe the Earth Day and world leaders are signing the Paris Agreement on climate change,” he points out.

On record, heads of all 13 major Hindu akharas (militant ascetic groups) agree.

Swami Chidananda Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh, reflects the consensus: “Simhastha provides us a stage that can never be organised and we must utilise the congregation to positive use by enlightening about the threats to our deteriorating environment and other social evils.” 

The Chidananda Foundation is organising an massive awareness campaign in the mela through laser shows, documentaries, themed parades, cultural activities, promoting Kshipra aarti and educational training hubs.

However, there are sceptics, who doubt if the sadhus are really interested in saving the planet Earth. “Members of these akharas have an old tradition of fighting amongst themselves. The only thing that has changed is that open armed clashes have been replaced by litigation and behind the scene use of political power brokers,” says social historian Saroj Gaur, Sociologist.

The goings on in the 13 established akharas confirms this. Apart from trying to score brownie points among themselves, most office-bearers are fighting for greater governmental largesse. The presidentship of the akhara parishad itself is under challenge in the Allahabad high court. 

Backed by three powerful Vaishanav akharas, former alkhara chief  Mahanat Gyandas is challenging Giri’s claim.

Whatever happens this Simhastha will prove to be a game-changer for the residents of this ancient city.    

“We have spent nearly Rs 3,500 crore for developing infrastructure and amenities in Ujjain. Infrastructure procured, and systems set in place for the Mela – on solid waste management, smart-lighting, smart surveillance, tourism development – will accelerate the development of a smart city in Ujjain, and show impacts quickly,” says Commissioner Ujjain, Ravinda Pastotre.
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