Mapping the Kumbh Mela

Interdisciplinary faculty and student research on a “Pop-up Mega City”

The cyclical city

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In April began the planning of the Kumbh Nagri. In October they secured its space and laid down roads in November. InDecember they marked the plots and allocated land. Come January Kumbh Nagri turned into a mega city of tents, tin, and plywood: resplendent in its highly temporal state. Come March it will dismantle and come July its debris and markings will submerge under the powerful waters of the Ganges only to emerge again in smaller form next January.

The dance of regeneration of the city of Kumbh is performed in tandem with the waters of the Ganga. It responds to the cyclical movement of a river flooding and receding and the cyclic movements of a deep historical time: the drops of sacred elixir falling into the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganga and emerging every twelve years. The event reoccurs and reaffirms itself through the performance of ritual, the gathering of people, and through time established modes of production of space.

The production of the Kumbh is remembered and encoded into the lives of those who produce it. There is a complicit agreement on street layouts, area allocations, and internal camp configurations. The pathways of food and goods supply are etched into the local and arriving populations. The techniques and materials of building are known, coded and built at breakneck speed. Labor remembers and makes its way back into the city space when it is time to rebuild it.

And yet the cyclical city evolves. New players insert themselves into its cyclical history and age-old governmental records. Decorations grow psychedelic and mobile phones replace local grocery supply chains. Environmental action groups and mobile libraries change the nature of religious messages.  Jeeps, motorcycles, and motorboats create comforts in the spaces of renunciation. The size of the Nagri expands as voyeurs join the pious. The sacred mixes with the secular and the capitalist.

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Written by namitad

February 12, 2013 at 3:32 am

Posted in All

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