Looking for a traditional-yet-modern and comfortable stay and be part of the Kumbh Mela experience? Well, there are quite a few options available with around half-a-dozen service providers offering tourists and devotees cottages and dormitories.
They, of course, come with a price that could range from Rs 20,000 per person per night to Rs 500 per person per day right at the edge of the mela area. And helping these service providers in combining tradition with modern facilities are the spiritual gurus. Apart from being the guiding light, they also provide customer base to these enterprises.
Abhijeet Tripathi of Kumbh Cottages Camp, located at the edge of Sector-13 of the mela area towards Arail (Naini) says: “We have put such a camp here for the first time under the guidance of Baba Pagal Giri Masani, who lives in Varanasi. He has given us the guidelines to be
followed. Of course, there
would be no meat, no alcohol. Food is without onion and garlic. We get requests for booking through our website, but we do seek his guidance before saying yes to any client.”
Apart from other things, the Kumbh Cottage Camp also offers a panoramic view of Sangam and the Allahabad Fort. “Also, taking the customers for bathing is not difficult for us, as we take them in boats right up to Sangam,” said Tripathi, who has earlier worked with some big corporate names like Reliance and Mahindra Holiday Resorts.
“In keeping with tradition, jau (barley) saplings, which are traditionally planted during Navratri puja, have been planted by way of landscaping and cow dung is used to daub the entrances and the surroundings to our cottages. Our Baba’s insists that tradition should not be disturbed in the name of modernity. We will be making arrangements for around 1,000 of his devotees around Mauni Amavasya on February 10,” Tripathi said.
Further down the road is the camp put up by Prayagraj Heritage Limited. “We have used fire resistant material in our camps. There are no tents in our camp. We are also providing television and wi-fi enabled Internet service in the deluxe cottages,” said incharge S K Mishra. This particular enterprise has “partnered” with Sri Someshwar Baba. “There are many spiritual gurus, who could not get land in the main mela area. It works both ways. They get accommodation for their devotees and we get clients,” said Mishra.
Most of these enterprises eye the foreign clientele looking for an experience of the spectacular aspect of Kumbh without getting into much discomfort.
However, Anil Agarwal of Kumbh Village Camp, located near Harish Chandra Research Institute on Chhatnag Road in Jhunsi (closer to Sector-12 of the Mela area), said: “The Kumbh-2013 has not been marketed in such a way that many foreigners would get attracted. A large chunk of our clientele is Indian.” The Kumbh Village Camp has “tied up” with Shiva Shakti Siddha Yoga Ashram in Cuttack, Odisha. “Our Maharajji was looking for a place in the mela area. But he was refused. He then got in touch with us so that his devotees can stay comfortably near the Mela area,” he added.
Incidentally, till religious tourism has had a jerky start in so far as Kumbh is concerned. In 2001 Kumbh, a private tour operator, Cox and Kings, had set up its camp with modern-day luxuries. But it was forced to remove its apparatus following allegations of alcohol and meat being served in their camps.
Subsequently, the mela administration had banned any private operator within the Kumbh mela area.