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Pilgrimage and PowerThe Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, 1765-1954$
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Kama Maclean

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195338942

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195338942.001.0001

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 The Sarkari Mela

 The Sarkari Mela

The Allahabad Kumbh, 1954

Chapter:
(p.191) 6 The Sarkari Mela
Source:
Pilgrimage and Power
Author(s):

Kama Maclean (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195338942.003.0007

The newly independent government took a prominent role in encouraging people to attend the first Kumbh after independence, which was held in a spirit of celebration. If critics of the British administration of the festival had pointed to its heavy handedness and a sense of dismissiveness of the “heathen beliefs” that were enacted at the mela, the Indian administration of it was to be characterised by a more encouraging ethos. Sadly, hundreds of pilgrims died on the biggest bathing day, largely as a result of crowd mismanagement, which the subsequent inquiry blamed largely on the aggressive actions of a band of sadhus. The findings of the official inquiry were not well accepted, as attested to by a thriving oral tradition which maintains that there was a cover-up in the inquiry. This chapter examines closely the Kumbh Tragedy, examining a range of evidence, analysing the recriminations and debates and that attempted to reimagine the relationship between the state and religious events. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of government-mela interactions since independence.

Keywords:   postcolonialism, nation, peasants, modernity, pilgrims, risk management, Hindu politics, Kambh Tragedy

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