New Delhi, Aug. 18: The 2013 Kumbh in Allahabad was billed the world's largest gathering of pilgrims. Now it is a Harvard case study, for the way a "mega city pops up within months and then disappears".
Researchers from the US university who had visited the fair two years ago have compiled their findings in a book, saying the fair at the Sangam riverside offered lessons in urban planning, public health, data science and business management.
Kumbh Mela - Mapping the Ephemeral Mega-City was released here yesterday by Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, whose government had organised the 55-day event in January-February 2013 attended by over 80 million.
"It was fascinating the way such a mega city popped up within months and then disappeared. We thought it would give us a unique opportunity to develop teaching tools in urban planning, disease surveillance and business risk management," said Meena Hewett, executive director of the Harvard South Asia Institute and a senior member of the team.
In their 447-page book, the researchers have described Kumbh as more than a mere spectacle, detailing the "sheer human achievement of creating the temporary, yet complex, infrastructure of the 24sqkm Kumbh City, comparable to almost two-thirds of Manhattan".
Hewett termed the study "unique", saying students and faculty from five disciplines -urban planning, business, public health, architecture, and culture - had come together to analyse various aspects of the "awe-inspiring gathering".
The team of 50 comprised professors, students and doctors from the Ivy League institution.
"Though there has been some literature on the fair, we felt there should be a proper multi-disciplinary documentation," Rahul Mehrotra, from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, said.
Diana L. Eck, another member who has authored a book on Varanasi, Banaras: City of Light, studied the religious and environmental aspects of Kumbh. The book praises chief minister Akhilesh's efforts for a "Green Kumbh" by banning the use of plastic and other pollutants.
The team noted the "diversity of sanitation facilities at the fair, ranging from simple corrugated metal or canvas enclosures" and waste disposal methods.
It called the entire process of "making this (Kumbh) city with an expiry date astonishing".