The age-old Sanskrit shloka, Gange tav darshnarth mukti (mere sight of the Ganga washes away all sins), is drawing millions to the Kumbh, but sadhus as well as devotees and visitors are steering clear of the holy waters to quench their thirst.
The human congregation in this land of the Sangam — the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati — is relying on bottled water and modern-day purifiers.
Health considerations have taken precedence, more so because many people who came in early for the Kumbh Mela struggled with diarrhoea for a few days.
Mahant Ravindra Puri of, secretary of Shri Panchayati Mahanirvani Akhara, said drinking bottled water while camping so close to the Ganga was both unavoidable and a sad reflection of the times. “The task of sadhus is to provide direction to the country through their worship and sacrifice. This can be done only if we are healthy. It is precisely for this reason that we are using bottled water.”
He added, “We use the river water for just the achman (worship).”
Many of the akharas have entered into agreements with bottled water suppliers to meet their daily needs. Even the naga sadhus, known for observing extreme austerity, are turning to safe drinking water.
Hundreds of stalls selling water purifiers have come up all over the mela ground. The water supplied in camps through specially laid pipelines by Jal Nigam is being purified through these purifiers.
Only purified water is being served to seers, pilgrims and, in a first for a Kumbh, guests from India and abroad alike.