Any time you have 30 million or more people expected to descend upon your riverbanks within a short time span, you probably should be panicking. It?s doubtful that any amount of planning and crowd control will be perfect. Call in the astrologers to help!
The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh will use every option apparently, real or nonsense, to keep a huge Hindu river festival from being a disaster next year. They have hired a team of astrologers to calm down ?Gods? and ?Grahas? (planets), which they consider responsible for previous deaths and injuries due to overcrowding. In a story from Indian Times, readers are warned that ?Guru Chandal Yogam?(mystic power) is coming. This is not good news. This inauspicious astrological phase coincides with Simhastha fair and the government is worried that a major tragedy might occur due to the celestial situation. The state government is consulting nine astrologers to insure a peaceful event that occurs 22 April ? 21 May 2016 where millions of visitors arrive along the river.
The Ujjain Kumbh is celebrated when Jupiter ascends into sun sign Leo?s quarter or the Simha constellation of zodiac, which is why it is called ?Simhastha?. The Simhastha is special in Ujjain as it is the seat of divine Mahakal ? the Lord of all times. The ritual of bathing in the holy waters of Kshipra begins on the full moon day of the Hindu month of Chaitra (March-April) and continues on various dates until the full moon shows up in the following month of Vaishakha.
Sadhus of various sects from across the country assemble in Ujjain and mingle with ordinary people as they take their ritual dip in the holy waters of the Kshipra.
30 million people are expected for the festival that occurs every 12 years. 30 MILLION! Maybe more. That is an insane amount even over the month time span.
According to a festival officer, the state is not funding the astrologers. But the government is concerned about the expected masses of people after nearly 1,500 people were crushed to death last month in Mecca. Previously, other religious pilgrimage events in India resulted in deaths. At least 10 were killed in Deoghar in Jharkhand in August, and at least 27 were crushed on the banks of the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh in July. In 2013, 36 people were killed in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh after a festival as they tried to board trains home. In such cases, there is difficulty for help to reach the affected areas as the roads are so clogged with people. It?s just an all around terrible idea to put so many people into a small place, especially when there is a river involved. It does not take special sight to foresee disaster.
The president of the Simhastha mela authority, Diwakar Vasudev Natu, said the astrologers will concentrate on the possible evil effects of ?guru chandal yogam?, a planetary event involving Jupiter, Rahu (a rogue ?planet? in Hindu tradition), Gulika (a satellite of Saturn) and Ketu (a shadow planet).
Pandit Anand Shankar Vyas, one of the panel members, said that ?calamity might strike in the form of tremors leading to stampede, outburst of poisonous gasses, explosion, or in the form of epidemic.?
He added that while it was impossible to avoid the celestial conjunction, ?we can gather strength to subdue its affects?.
Natu said starting January next year, rituals will be conducted till the commencement of the Simhastha to appease ?the gods and graha nakshatras?.
This story reflects how relevant Vedic astrology is in the lives of Hindus to this day. None of the above concepts appear to be related to actual astronomy but, to be honest, I just can?t tell. Hindu astrology is a complicated array of topics and beliefs that would take quite a while to untangle.
But the core of this story is that some people in this Indian state DO NOT subscribe to the pseudoscience of astrology (of any kind). While state money is said to not be a play, the fees for the astrologers and their rituals will be footed by businessmen and religious trusts, it seems more reasonable to strongly support funds and efforts to be directed toward infrastructure, security and crowd management. While the Madhya Pradesh government has done that, they see fit to cover all their bases, even mystical ones. Indian rationalists are not pleased. There remains blatant mixing of fact and mythology at high levels of government in India and in the general population as well. It is estimated that over 90% of the Indian population, scientists included, believe in astrology. The Bombay High Court has ruled astrology is a ?science?.
More about astrology beliefs in India:
There shall be no mocking of astrology in India!
?REAL? astrologers angry with fake astrologers in India
Astrology: More like Religion Than Science