Nobody is saying it out loud yet but so far, there is a marked lack of enthusiasm at the Maha Kumbh in Allahabad this year.
Seers, foreign tourists and local business community alike are equally dismayed by the palpable lack of populace, one of the biggest selling points of the event.
Official estimates suggest around 4.5 million people took a bath at the Sangam on Sunday, the second big bathing day of the 55-day fair. This was lower than the earlier expectation of around 5.5 million. With no scientific method of calculation, even this number seems bloated.
"For a country with more than a billion population, I was expecting more crowd," says 27-year-old Kevin, a tourist from Canada. "I had heard so much about it. Maybe it's the cold that is keeping people away."
The reasons are manifold. From lack of relevance to inclement weather and a general disinterest among people overwhelmed by expectations of huge crowds. "There is a disconnect among the youth with an event like this," said Bhanugiri, a seer with the Panchayati Anand Akhara. "Mostly it is the older generation that is in attendance here. And this is a young country. Maybe there is a need to re-energise and propagate our spirituality."
"There is a greater vigour even during Amarnath Yatra these days," said Ram Bharti, a naga with Juna Akhada.
Officials though claim it is exemplary management that gives the impression and the footfall has been as per expectations.
"I do not think there is any lack of enthusiasm or participation," said Mani Prasad Mishra, mela officer. "The approach roads are wider, the number of bathing ghats is more and the mela area itself has been expanded by 20%.
The litmus test would be on on February 10, when an estimated 25 million pilgrims are expected to visit the city.
8 injured in fire air-lifted to Delhi
New Delhi: Eight of the 19 persons injured in the fire on Friday at the ongoing Mahakumbh were admitted to New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital. The burn victims were air-lifted from Allahabad on Saturday evening.
All victims, which include 3 children and four women, have been admitted to the intensive care unit.