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Krishna Pushkar in Retrospective

Sustainable Pushkar Tourism Management  Context : Krishna Pushkar (August 12,2016 – August 23,2016) is a festival of the river Krishna, which normally occurs once in every 12 years. The Pushkar is observed for a period of 12 days from the time of entry of Jupiter into Virgo (Kanya rasi) and celebrated with great pomp all over Telangana and Andhra states. Lakhs of devotees throng the rivers, during the first and last 12 days of this Jupiter’s annual journey through the respective zodiac sign, to get a holy dip, purify themselves and perform ancestral rites and acquire all round merits and prosperity for generations.

To put the numbers in perspective,in the Andhra Pradesh state alone,~1000+ crores were believed to be spent for the 12 day festival, 2-3.5 crore people took a holy dip across 170+ bathing ghats specially constructed for the purpose,68+ lakh meals distributed free of cost, 500+ special trains, 1000+ buses pressed into service to cater to the pilgrim traffic flow,12000+ artists enthralled the pilgrim audience with their cultural prowess, 5+ teams of NDRF 10th battalion deployed to avert various disasters, 100+ doctors served to preempt public health emergencies,25+ crores spent on the promotion and marketing of the Pushkar related festivity events, 7+ mobile applications specially designed to manage crowd logistics, 60+ mini satellite townships constructed to take care of pilgrims hospitality needs, scores of food festivals organized to put the spot light on native food delicacies, 24,000+ police force, 1000 cameras, 400+ CC cameras, 20 drones for surveillance deployed to manage pilgrim safety, continuous sampling of water samples and  edge chlorination undertaken, and 21000+ sanitary workers contracted to manage the public health and waste logistics for this 12 day mega event which was overseen by 1 lakh + government officials round the clock.

Given the regularity of these mega events across the length and breadth of India, there is a strong business case for the application of sustainability lens to the complete events management and pilgrim destinations in order that the rich cultural and spiritual river festival legacies can be carried forward.

“From the earliest times divine and many of the great pilgrimages of Hindu India were focused upon sacred rivers such as the Ganges, Indus, Yamuna, Krishna, Godavari, and Brahmaputra.’ Henri Bergson, French Philosopher.

The much awaited Krishna Pushkar took place from August 12th -23rd, 2016. This is a festival of sacred river Krishna which occurs once in 12 years.

Legendary anecdotes suggest that during pushkar time, all the deities and great sages take holy dip to purify and make the rivers sacred. Thus, a holy dip during the pushkar time is believed to  enhance one’s spiritual mental and physical abilities.

The river for each year festival is based on the presence of Jupiter on which Zodiac sign by that time. The pushkar lasts for a period as long as the Jupiter remains in that particular Zodiac sign. It is believed that ‘Pushkaradu’, also known as the pushkar God who is powerful to make any river holy will travel with Jupiter as ordained by Lord Brahma, as Jupiter travels from one Zodiac sign to another Zodiac sign. Pushkar is a festival of rivers pertains to 12 important rivers in India which occurs once in 12 years for each river

When Jupiter entered Leo, Godavari Pushkar was conducted. Following is the table that show the which river conducts pushkar based on the entry of Jupiter into different zodiac signs: (Ganges,Aries),(Narmada,Taurus),(Saraswathi,Gemini),(Yamuna,Cancer),(Godavari,Leo),(Krishna,Virgo),(Kaveri,Libra),(Tambrapani,Scorpio),(Brahmaputhra,Sagittarius),(Tungabhadra,Capricorn),(Indus, , Aquarius),(Pranahita,Pisces).The first 12 days of Krishna pushkar are called ‘Aadhi pushkar‘ and the last 12 days  are called ‘Anthya pushkar‘. These 24 days are considered sacred to pilgrims and devotees.

Vedic Injunctions on Waters 

In Vedic texts, water is referred to as ‘Apah‘, considered as sacred and treated as purifier. The Waters are considered to be purifying in a spiritual context. ‘Hail to you, divine, unfathomable, all purifying Waters…’ (Rig Veda).

The Rig Veda identifies the Waters as the first residence or ‘Ayana‘ of ‘Nara’, as well as the very foundation of this universe. Satapathi Brahmana says, ‘Water may pour from the heaven or run along the channels dug out by men; or flow clear and pure having the Ocean as their goal…In the midst of the Waters is moving the Lord, surveying men’s truth and men’s lies. How sweet are the Waters, crystal clear and cleansing…From whom… all the Deities drink exhilarating strength, into whom the Universal Lord has entered…

Early Vedic tradition identified water as a manifestation of the feminine principle, known commonly as ‘Sakti’.

Rig Veda observed, ‘I call the Waters, Goddesses, wherein our cattle quench their thirst; Oblations to the streams be given…’ It is said that the primordial cosmic man or Purusha was born of the Waters. Similarly later Vedic texts identify that, ‘Water is female…’ (Satapathi Brahmanas). Vedic philosophy attributed sacredness to water and also identified water as a medium to attain spiritual enlightenment. ‘Atharvana Veda‘ declared water as ‘the first door to attain the divine order.’ The use of water in daily life as well as in ritualistic ceremony was referred to as spiritual sacrifice, a process of attaining eternity.A cleansing bath was believed to liberate one from sin and impurity: ‘…Whatever sin is found in me, whatever wrong I may have done, if I have lied or falsely sworn, Waters remove it far from me…’ (Rig Veda).

Water is considered sacred and pure. There is no life without water. Rig Veda emphasizes the importance of water thus: “The waters which are from the firmament and which flow after being dug, and even those that spring by themselves, the bright pure waters which lead to the sea, may those divine waters protect me here.” The act of bathing was considered intensely spiritual and it was believed that physical acts of imperfection were removed and spiritual oneness with the Eternal Self was attained during the process.

According to the Vedas, it was not the act of taking a bath itself, but the coming into contact with the sacredness of water, and the attainment of such knowledge and proximity that made one sinless and guided the individual to the Eternal Self. Water was considered sacred but it was clarified that man does not pray to water, the physical entity, but to the source of life and spirituality within water.

The Legends behind Pushkar

According to the Hindu scriptures, Pushkara is the son of Lord Varuna, the presiding deity of rain, water and the rivers.  As per the legend behind, it is said that, Pushkara acquired two boons – one from Lord Brahma and the other from Lord Shiva.  Based on his own request, Lord Brahma granted Pushkara the boon to live in the waters of His ‘Kamandalu‘. Later, Pushkara also performed severe penance and acquired the ‘Jala Tattva Siddhi’ from Lord Shiva as a boon. By the virtue of  boons acquired from Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva, Pushkara became the king of all theerthas and was regarded as the Theerthapalaka. There are several other meanings or stories associated with the name.One explanation says that Pushkara is a Sanskrit word derived from the word Push (Pushti) meaning nourishment and Kara means one who conducts it. Pushkara is the energy that nourishes. With reference to the sacred rivers, Pushkara means the one who energize the rivers and provide spiritual purification.Second, Pushkara also means Lotus, sanctified water, Swan, Sword, Sky, Lake Etc.  In ‘Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram‘ one finds a reference to the word Pushkara where Lord Sri Maha Vishnu is referred to as ‘Pushkaraakshah‘ meaning the one who has lotus eyes, the one who provides nourishment to the entire Universe and the one who is always present in sacred theerthas. Third, Pushkar is the name of a famous pilgrim center known as Pushkara Kshethra located in Rajasthan about 17 km from Ajmer city.  According to one legend, Lord Brahma desirous of having a place on earth, was supposed to have thrown three lotus (pushpa) petals toward the earth. When the petals landed, three holy lakes sprung up – one for each petal.  Because the lakes had been created from the flower (pushpa) thrown from Brahma’s hand (Kara), the area became known as Pushkara. The three lakes are known as  Jyesta Pushkara (“senior Pushkara”), Madhya Pushkara (“middle Pushkara”), and Kanishtha Pushkara (“junior Pushkara”).

Benefits of Pushkar Holy Dips

Jupiter (Brihaspati), the Deva guru (guru of Gods), is the most benevolent planet symbolizing the wealth, fortune, learning, knowledge, divinity, progeny, domestic peace, charity, morality, meditation, devotion, auspiciousness and responsible for curing ailments affecting the stomach. Whenever Pushkara enters the zodiac sign facilitating him to enter into a particular river is considered as highly sacred and that has the power to diminish the ghastly and dreadful sins committed. Taking bath in the river, having darshan of the river , performing charities and touching the water or sipping the sacred waters of Pushkara are thus considered to be highly meritorious, spiritual and soul cleansing. Performing ‘Shraddha’ ceremony to forefathers on the banks of Pushkara river is believed to help attain salvation.

Hindus believe that taking bath in a river is considered meritorious as the body is cleansed and the sins are eliminated. Scriptures reveal that taking bath in a flowing river is considered very important. Taking bath in a sacred river during the time of Pushkar is considered auspicious and it is believed that one accrues manifold merits.It is also believed that all the Devatas, sages and Pitru Devatas along with Brihaspati and Pushkara reside in these sacred rivers during the Pushkar time.

Taking bath in a Pushkar river is said to help cleanse the inner selves, wash out the evil tendencies and open up a path for a righteous living.  This bath is suggested to be taken early in the morning before sunrise during ‘Braahmi Muhurtham‘ which is considered a highly meritorious time.  It is believed that Pushkar holy dip also has curative properties from chronic ill health.  After Pushkar dip it is also considered auspicious to pray and give ‘Arghya’ to the concerned Pushkar river, ‘Theertha Raja’ (Pushkara), ‘Brihaspati’, ‘Lord Vishnu‘ who is considered to be eternally present in all the Theerthas, Brahmaadi Devatas, Vasishta Sage, Ganga River and the Sun God (Sri Surya Narayana).

The scientific basis surrounding the holy dips and their spiritual and healing powers is believed to lay in the notions that water is the fastest and quickest element to be energized, an the cosmic energy emanating from the 12 year astrological planetary configuration cycles, spreads in the holy  waters to a radius of 45 kms and within this orbit of 45 kms of the invisible bubbling source of the highest cosmic energy – lies the secret to human redemption and salvation.It is believed that when one takes a dip in the holy waters, during that time, the subtle energy points in our human aura and our physical human body absorb the cosmic energies fully and this absorption, in turn, effects changes in the mind, body & spirit – and thereby automatically affects one’s and one’s forefathers’ destinies for the better.

Text Credits: Savetemples.org &  www.themotherdivine.com

The social dimensions of this mega river festival span areas primarily related to public health and hygiene, cultural practices in vogue, opportunities for recreation/leisure and more importantly full engagement of various types of stakeholders in making the event near zero incident free and successful.

Public Health and Hygiene  Drives

Temporary toilets and private bathing spaces in sufficient numbers at all bathing ghats and public places, medical staff deputies across ghats, primary health centres and  reverse osmosis water plants, water proof tents, temporary health camps provision across all major public places, continuous edge chlorination drives to maintain the river water quality, pushkar related food safety inspection drives to prevent food poisoning and water contamination,vaccination/medical advice and public service message drives against possible incidents of diarrhea, cramps, nausea, skin allergies and vomiting and continuous pollution check drives and deployment of massive sanitation workforce  pre, during and post events were among major initiatives undertaken to help prevent public health outbreaks during the event.

Culture and Heritage Drives

The event was market by grand ‘Nava Harathi’ led opening and closing ceremonies coupled with laser shows and a slew of cultural activities ranging from mimicry, classical devotional music recitals and nights, ‘Kuchipudi and ‘Kathak’ dance performances, modern folk dances, comedy shows, parody songs and other activities near all bathing ghats, pilgrim centres and tourist destinations.

Food festivals show casing various food delicacies/ culinary specialties belonging to the key regions where the event saw massive public participation was another highlight of the 12 day event.

While the cultural and aesthetic interludes provided an interesting backdrop to the event, the key and important spiritual significance of the event was never lost sight of by lakhs of devotees and pilgrims that thronged the holy bathing ghats of the river. Crowd analytic figures suggest that the practices of offering food to the generations of forefathers coupled with 7+ other different types of ‘poojas and sankalps‘, charity offerings to the needy , temple visits to the shrines touched record heights during the event time.

Opportunities for Recreation/Leisure

The event also saw one of the organizing governments utilize the event as a development show-case platform with a slew of cultural-developmental projects in the form of temples renovation,pilgrimage rejuvenation and spirituality augmentation  and river front development to beautify  and develop the event nerve centre regions with substantial budget allocations.

Multimedia shows and organized aerial visits highlighting the art-heritage and enthralling sky views of the bathing ghats belonging to the key regions where the event saw massive public participation marked key opportunities for recreation and leisure during the 12 day mega event.

Water sports and river cruises were introduced on the river Krishna and 10 parking places were seup along the river for the boats to dock.

Stakeholder engagement

Information gathered from a variety of sources suggest that the event was marked by massive participation and co-operation of lakhs of student volunteers, civil society organizations offering free food to the pilgrims, civic administration to oversee the complete and round the clock logistics and public health & safety of the crowds and maintain river water quality, artistes, small business owners and logistics services providers, technology and crowd analytic partners, school functionaries, major and minor tender works contractors, ‘archakas‘ to make the spiritual offerings successful, rapid disaster response teams and temporary sanitation workforce to provide operation clean-up services round the clock.

Media reports suggest that the organizing governments may have spent large sums between INR 1000-2000 crores for the 12 day grand mega event serving a 2 – 3.5 crore estimated pilgrim base. It is opined that the free food distribution and accommodation options, subsidized travel, parking and site restrictions may have led to some what muted/lost business for small traders.  While the reports remain unconfirmed, for a similar but a much larger scale event namely the Maha Kumbh Mela of Allahabad in 2013 spread over 55 days, the revenue earning and job creation potential was pegged at INR 12,000-15000 crore and 6.35 lakh jobs (organized and unorganized sectors put together) by one ASSOCHAM study.

Given such potential, it may be therefore be imperative for various organizing governments to carry out in-depth, multi disciplinary and multi sectoral ‘Pushkar’ studies/related research to understand the complex  spiritual-social-economic-ecological dynamics at play,devise & deploy appropriate and sustainable public policy strategies and measures in place to fully leverage the potential underlying such mega river festival events

 According to the studies conducted by the Pollution Control Board during the river festival of Godavari last year, T-Coli forms of bacteria  related presence was noted to be high (during the Pushkar time) apart from the elevated presence of E-coli bacteria. These are said to be the causes behind public health challenges of diarrhoea,nausea, cramps, vomiting and skin allergies during Pushkar time and pilgrims have been issued public interest messages to avoid drinking river water during that time as also undertake a fresh water bath following the holy dip and performance of various religious ceremonies at the river fronts.  Another study conducted by the AU researchers indicates that monitoring the composite ‘Water Quality Index’ is imperative to ensure pilgrims have an excellent overall spiritual experience from the holy dips.

Based on such findings and past experiences, it is evidenced from the Krishna Pushkar logistical arrangements,that necessary technology led steps were taken to monitor round the clock bathing ghats’ health status through Ghat tracker GIS application and continuous water sampling undertaken to monitor the overall river water quality status coupled with regular release of  fresh water flows between upstream and downstream destinations and periodic edge chlorination drives.

This apart, other media reports suggest staggering municipal solid waste generation of 18,000 MT comprising plastic bottles, water sachets,flowers and residual offerings leading up to large landfill and waste clearance challenges post the event by a 21,000+ sanitary workforce deployment.

However, it may be discerned that such measures remain short term and organizing governments may well consider planning for upfront sustainable MSW handling strategies and undertaking periodic comprehensive ecological flow assessments/studies (and especially before, during and after Pushkar  events) for the Pushkar rivers to preserve their cultural, spiritual and ecological sanctity for future generations.

Sustainable Pushkar Tourism Management

Our Perspective : Combine The Events Sustainability Roadmap with DIT-Achieve Model to Promote Overall Pushkar Events and Pilgrim Destinations Sustainability

The Events Sustainability Roadmap,developed using the ISO 20121 principles and by the Sustainable Events Alliance, offers event planners a helping hand to lead the planners along the sustainability road, one step at a time and help them navigate for improved sustainability performance on the events.

Learn more about the Roadmap via link : http://sustainable-event-alliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/The-Events-Sustainability-Roadmap1.pdf

Picture and Text Credits : sustainable-event-alliance.org

The DIT-ACHIEV Model, highlighting internationally recognized sustainable tourism indicators, focuses on six ‘fields of interests’: Administration, Community,Heritage,Infrastructure,Enterprise and Visitor.Each field of interest encompasses the three pillars of sustainability (environment, economy and society). In addition to data such as environmental measurements, information on water, waste, energy, transport, examination of local cultural, environmental and employment statistics, the model requires the undertaking of three dedicated surveys: A Resident Survey, A Business Survey and A Visitor Survey.It is anticipated that the use of this model for the examination and future planning of tourism will result in a more viable tourism product in both the immediate and long term, and thereby ensure that a broad range of sustainable principles are adhered to in the management of this important industry.

Learn more via link : http://dit.ie/dit-achiev/dit-achievmodel/

Picture and Text Credits :Dublin Institute of Management

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap

The Events Sustainability Roadmap







Better the Destination Sustainability Indices > Greater the Prosperity of Regions & Well-Being of Societies