A BUDGET of Rs 200-250 crore, a 15-acre museum on Indian culture fashioned by set designers of the superhit Bollywood film Baahubali, an international ballet themed around the Ganga, performances by hundreds of artistes, and promotions at airports.
Nine months after the Kumbh Mela made it to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list as the largest peaceful congregation of pilgrims on earth, the Government is planning to make the Ardh Kumbh at Allahabad in January 2019 the “biggest ever celebration” of its kind.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said: “After the UNESCO honour, we are going to make it the biggest Kumbh in India. It will be fashioned like an international event with a lot of visitors from all over the world.”
In 2016, when the Simhastha Mahakumbh was held in Ujjain, the Culture Ministry had earmarked Rs 100 crore — its biggest budget allocation for the event till then.
This time, sources said, the Ministry is planning to spend Rs 200-250 crore, of which around Rs 100 crore will partially fund the Sanskriti Gram, a 15-acre, tech-enabled museum at the venue. Conceived by RSS-affiliated Sanskar Bharati, the museum is being built at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore, with the rest of the funds coming from the UP government and corporate sponsors.
“We are involving the set designers of the film Baahubali to create the structure on a grand scale. The entrance will be themed around the Ajanta caves, and visitors will be offered a three-hour experiential tour of the Indian culture inside, from the Vedic times till date,” said an RSS functionary who is part of the concept team.
“Work is being done on a war-footing to adhere to the December deadline. Even though it is conceived as a temporary museum at the moment, it may be given a permanent space depending on public response,” said the Sangh functionary, who did not wish to be identified.
Besides, official sources said, the Culture Ministry will ask zonal cultural centres across the country to send hundreds of artistes to perform at the Kumbh, while the regional centre of Lalit Kala Akademi will be involved in decorating the venue.
While Ramlila and Krishna Lila will be staged during the event, an international ballet themed around the Ganga is being planned this time, sources said.
According to official estimates, over 15 crore people are expected to visit the Kumbh Mela, which will be organised over 10,000 acres of land, with invitations also being sent to each village in India.
The Ministry of Tourism has also embarked on a mega publicity spree through missions abroad to generate interest about the “49-day Kumbh Mela”, according to a submission by Union Tourism Minister K J Alphons in Lok Sabha recently.
This campaign includes advertisements at major international airports in India, developing a designated area for hoisting the flags of 192 countries from where visitors are expected.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Alphons said: “We have a budget of Rs 450 crore this year for publicity and promotions. We can tap into that kitty to attract more visitors to the Kumbh. I am also involving our foreign offices and embassies.”