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Hindi version of Kumbh Mela book launched in Lucknow

On Monday, August 1, the Harvard University South Asia Institute (SAI) launched the Hindi edition of the book and the exhibition Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh at the Vivanta by Taj, in partnership with the Uttar Pradesh (UP) Government.

The event drew a large crowd and included Harvard alumni, community members, government officials, students, and members of the public.

The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings of the world’s largest religious festival, and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

FR3A8576The event featured first-hand insights from Harvard scholars and Kumbh administrators who were on the ground during the festival in 2013, which drew over 50 million pilgrims to Allahabad over the course of 55 days. A Harvard team of 50 faculty members, students, and researchers studied the festival, which was not only a remarkable religious experience, but also a valuable exercise in urban planning, public health, government administration, security, and commerce.

When the English edition of the book was released in New Delhi last year, Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, explained that a Hindi edition would help in disseminating the learnings and communicate the grandeur of the Kumbh Mela to populace across India. This Hindi book launch is a culmination of all the efforts since then. The book has been translated by Bal Kishan Bali.

Meena Hewett
, Executive Director, Harvard University South Asia Institute, welcomed the dignitaries and the audience. She expressed that the interdisciplinary research on the Kumbh Mela has been very fruitful and thanked the UP Government for facilitating the research process. She explained that the book shall serve as a guide to organize large scale events across the globe in various settings.

Rahul Mehrotra, left, and Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister. hold the bookJaved Usmani, then Chief Secretary and now Chief Information Officer (CIC), Uttar Pradesh Government, recounted his experience at the festival. He reflected on how it was a very big challenge for the new government to host the event considering the fact that they had just 9 months to plan and organize the whole event, while an existing government would typically have much more than a year’s time to do the same.

Around 20 departments of the State Government, 6 departments of the Central Government, religious institutions, non-profit organizations, and partners from the formal and informal came together to execute the Kumbh Mela: More than 690 kilometers of pipelines were laid for drinking water supply; around 800 kilometers of power lines were laid; around 25,000 street lights were installed; 18 pontoon bridges were constructed to hold 500,000 people per hour; 20,000 police personnel, to ensure safety of pilgrims and prevent terrorism; 34,000 toilets with bio-digester technology; 7,000 sanitation workers who were deployed round the clock, amongst many others.

Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, narrated his experience from a design and urban planning perspective. According to him, the level and kind of complexity associated with the Kumbh Mela is unique. This is the first time a systematic mapping of the Kumbh Mela has been done.

FR3A8693Mehrotra explained that the book’s research is focused on the following areas: Urbanism, Business, Religion, Technology, Health, Governance and Engineering. The lessons from this study can be used in various other settings like urban planning, refugee camps, disaster management, rehabilitation, mass gatherings for various purposes amongst many others.

Alok Sharma, Inspector General (IG) of Police, Uttar Pradesh Government, shared his experience of the immense challenges his team of policemen faced at an event attended by crores of pilgrims from across the world. He thanked the Chief Minister for having given them a lot of accountability and responsibility to handle the event. The amount of pressure felt during the event was like never before for the police team. Policemen were given the freedom to act in the best interests of the pilgrims at any point in time and not wait for orders from seniors to make decisions which could be handled at their end.

The exhibition and book have previously been launched in New Delhi with Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, at Harvard University with President Drew Faust, at the Asia Society in New York City, and at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai.


Kundan Madireddy, Project Manager, Social Entrepreneurship and Livelihood Creation in India 



Harvard University’s book on Kumbh now in Hindi

Officers share success story of Mahakumbh

“A chance of a lifetime”

IMG_8805 - Copy

Tarun Khanna

For several Harvard professors, studying the world’s largest gathering was the “chance of a lifetime.”

That gathering was the 2013 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India, a Hindu religious fair that occurs every twelve years with an estimated attendance of more than 80 million people over 55 days. Because of its size and complexity, the 2013 Kumbh Mela inspired the Harvard South Asia Institute’s flagship multi-year interdisciplinary research project in a number of complementary fields: business, technology and communications, urban studies and design, religious and cultural studies, and public health.

On May 19, SAI hosted an event at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where several professors involved in the project discussed the book Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity, which consolidates research findings and serves as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard.

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TedX: Lessons from Kumbh Mela – Worlds Largest Gathering of Humanity

Tarun Khanna, Director of the Lakshmi Mittal South Asia Institute and Jorge Paulo Lemann professor at Harvard Business School, delivered the following TEDx talk in Mumbai in December about SAI’s project on the Kumbh Mela.

A diverse group of scholars and practitioners from Harvard University travelled to the 2013 Kumbh Mela, the largest collection of humanity on the face of the earth, with the idea that this 1400-year-old event could teach us something about contemporary challenges. The lessons learned at the Kumbh Mela and the flexible, minimalist platform that it was set up on, provided practical insights to current challenges around the world, such as the present refugee crisis.


Delhi Notebook: How the wedding syndrome could fix India

In a recent column for The Financial Times, ‘How the wedding syndrome could fix India,’ Victor Mallet writes about how the Indian government manages one-off events but not longer-term projects, and cites SAI’s recently- published book on the Kumbh Mela.

“It is the same Ganges on whose sandbanks the usually inept Uttar Pradesh government built a fully serviced temporary city for tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims attending the 2013 Kumbh Mela at Allahabad to bathe in the river’s waters. The festival was arguably the largest-ever gathering of humans on Earth.

So remarkable was the achievement that it is the subject of Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity, a book featuring research from Harvard University’s South Asia Institute.”

Click here to read the full article.



Studying the Kumbh Mela from many perspectives

What happens when tens of millions of people form a temporary city on the banks of a holy river? In 2013, a team from Harvard set out to answer this question, and found that there is much more than meets the eye at the Kumbh Mela.

On Monday, January 18, the Lakhmi Mittal South Asia Institute (SAI) launched the book and exhibition Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity in Mumbai at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in partnership with the Asia Society India Centre and the Harvard Club of Mumbai. The event drew a crowd of more than 200 people, including Harvard alumni, community members, government officials, students, and members of the public.

APS_0193The Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity book and exhibition consolidate research findings of the world’s largest religious festival, and serve as an example of interdisciplinary research conducted at Harvard. The exhibition and book have previously been launched in New Delhi with Shri Akhilesh Yadav, Honorable Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, at Harvard University with President Drew Faust, and at the Asia Society in New York City.

The event featured first-hand insights from Harvard scholars and Kumbh administrators who were on the ground during the festival in 2013, which drew over 50 million pilgrims to Allahabad over the course of a few weeks. A Harvard team of 50 faculty, students, and researchers studied the festival, which was not only a remarkable religious experience, but also a valuable exercise in urban planning, public health, government administration, security, and commerce.

Sabyasachi Mukherjee, Director of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, welcomed the audience and panelists to the museum and praised the collaborative nature of the project. Vikram Gandhi, SAI Advisory Council Member and Founder of Asha Impact, explained that SAI’s unique mission of bringing disciplines together made the study possible. He recounted some of his most memorable experiences visiting the festival, from taking a dip in the holy river, to observing the religious discipline of the sadhus.

Rahul Mehrotra holds a copy of the book, which will be translated and released in Hindi.

Rahul Mehrotra holds a copy of the book, which will be translated and released in Hindi.

Rahul Mehrotra, Professor of Urban Design and Planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, who moderated the panel discussion, explained that the project was a “fascinating” experience from an urban planning perspective, as a temporary megacity with an expiration date is not only constructed, but also disassembled.

The festival gathers together millions of people from various castes, classes, regions, and religions of India in one place, so it was an “astounding” experience to study the religious aspects of the Kumbh, according to Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies, and member of the Faculty of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. She explained that pilgrims come to the festival from all over India primarily to bathe in and worship the Ganges River, which becomes the worshippers’ “temple.”

Diana Eck, left, with Devesh Chaturvedi

Diana Eck, left, with Devesh Chaturvedi

The Kumbh is often portrayed in media and literature as a “spectacle” by photographers, so the panelists relished the opportunity to look at the festival from an academic perspective. Eck explained that her team was interested in studying some of the more fascinating aspects that are not usually seen. For example, her students studied the environmental impact: What happens to the 120 million marigolds that are used for religious purposes?

From the government’s perspective, Devesh Chaturvedi, Divisional Commissioner at the 2013 Kumbh, explained that careful planning and meticulous research led to a successful Kumbh. Governments usually provide, power, roads, clean water, security, sanitation services, healthcare, and food. But what about at a temporary city that only lasts 55 days?

Chaturvedi explained that one of the keys to success was developing plans that took local cultures and customs into account. For example, knowing that many pilgrims carry bundles on their head meant that when walking and traversing bridges, they would not be able to look down. This bit of cultural knowledge informed the construction of safer pontoon bridges.

The government worked with religious institutions, non-profit organizations, and partners from the informal sector to provide services on a huge scale: 960 kilometers of power lines to support 25,000 street lights; 18 pontoon bridges to hold 500,000 people per hour; 20,000 police personnel, to ensure safety of pilgrims and prevent terrorism; 690 kilometers of water lines for drinking water; 34,000 toilets with bio-digester technology; 7,000 sanitation workers who were deployed round the clock, among others.

Satchit Balsari

Satchit Balsari

The festival also provided a valuable lesson for public health. Satchit Balsari, Chief at Weill Cornell Global Emergency Medicine Division, Faculty at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and his team took advantage of technological advances to understand the spread of disease at the Kumbh, which he referred to as a “crucible of predictable chaos.”

Balsari and his team piloted their disease surveillance system on iPads at the 2013 festival, and have since deployed the tool at the 2015 festival over the summer in Nashik. Using an app with a simple interface, each physician was able to record an ID number, age, gender, and ailment for each patient they saw. With only one hour of training for each doctor, the team collected 40,000 patient records on the busiest bathing days – an average of 4,000 data sets per doctor.

Using all of this “extraordinarily rich” data, the team set up an interactive dashboard, available on smart phones, to see the distribution of patients organized by age, location, gender, disease, and disease frequency – all in real time. Balsari and his team believe this type of digital disease surveillance has significant potential for public health at future events, from natural disasters to refugee resettlements.

The panelists agreed that the festival served a crucial pedagogical tool, as it brought together disciplines that do not always work together. “All of the boundaries collapsed, and people began to speak to each other,” said Mehrotra.

Read more: Harvard receives government grant to bring the ‘Kumbh Mela’ story to India’s Hindi populace.

Visit our Facebook page to see more photos from the event.


Asia Society: Lessons from the Kumbh Mela

On the evening of Friday, November 6th, Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity, a book consisting of collaborative research of a team 50 Harvard University faculty, students, and administrators, made its debut in New York at the Asia Society to an audience of over 200.

Meera Gandhi, founder and CEO of The Giving Foundation, chaired the faculty presentations and panel. She began by sharing her memorable moments from the Kumbh Mela, from dipping in the river with the team of Harvard researchers to capturing the immensity of the Kumbh Mela in photos.

Rahul Mehrotra, Harvard Graduate School of Design, kicked off the faculty presentations with a rapid display of photographs which captured the development of the ephemeral city. He discussed how a land parcel is prepared for the expected 80 million attendees. Furthermore, he explained that often times these urban planners do not have blue prints to use besides oral history shared by past organizers. The map he showed in the following slide may actually be the first of its kind in the history of religious migration. Next, Mehrotra shared the structures of the buildings. The cross sections revealed a simple, study, and sustainable structure that can be reused and resized for different purposes. In fact, the structure of the travelling Kumbh Mela exhibit outside the auditorium was inspired by this architecture. Finally, Mehrotra closed with the end and dismantlement of the Kumbh Mela. Farmers use the land for crops; materials such as street lights are sent across the country for reuse.

Dhruv Kazi speaks about mapping disease at the festival. Photo credit: Ellen Wallop

Dhruv Kazi speaks about mapping disease at the festival. Photo credit: Ellen Wallop

Next, Dhruv Kazi, Assistant Professor of the UCSF School of Medicine, spoke about the public health challenges at the Kumbh Mela. His team of medical students digitally tracked over 30,000 of hospital visit entries. The big data allowed his team to instantly discover the median age, problems to health access, and common ailments. To his surprise, the biggest complaint was not diarrhea, but in fact, respiratory problems. The median age of an attendee hovered around 40 years old. Furthermore, females were more likely to visit a central clinic versus a clinic located in the periphery. Visiting a clinic on the outskirts raised the risk of getting lost amongst the crowd.

For the third and final presentation, Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at the Harvard Business School and Director of SAI, summarized the kind of data and learnings from the interdisciplinary research and imagined the possible applications of the study. He believes the Kumbh Mela presented a ripe opportunity to learn about the beginnings and framework of a megacity, illuminating solutions to natural disasters that require temporary housing.

After the presentations, the speakers stayed for questions from an engaged audience.



Video of the event:

Asia Society: The ‘Sheer Spectacle’ of Kumbh Mela

This article was published on the Asia Society website. 

Every 12 years, tens of millions of Indian Hindus descend on the northern city of Allahabad to bathe in the spot where the Ganga and Yamuna rivers converge. This sacred ritual, known as Kumbh Mela, dates back to the first millennium CE and represents the largest public gathering in the world. At the most recent observance in 2013, an estimated 30 million pilgrims inhabited the makeshift city on its peak day, and as many as 100 million passed through during the 55-day fair.

This massive congregation of humanity and the equally massive logistical challenges that accompany it intrigued Harvard scholars from a number of disciplines. So in the lead-up to the 2013 event, the university’s South Asia Institute established an interdisciplinary research project involving more than 50 professors, students, administrative staff, and other researchers from fields including business, technology, urban design, public health, and religion. Their findings culminated this year in the book Kumbh Mela: Mapping the Ephemeral Megacity. On November 6, several of the researchers involved in the project will speak on a panel at Asia Society in New York about the lessons learned. Ahead of the talk, Tarun Khanna, director of the Harvard South Asia Institute, and Rahul Mehrotra, professor of urban design and planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, spoke with Asia Blog about their experience and what stood out from the research.

What is it about the Kumbh Mela that was so intriguing to scholars from such diverse backgrounds?

Rahul Mehrotra: One is that this is a sheer spectacle when you have a temporary city of seven million people for 55 days with another 100 million people visiting. The sheer scale and the aspect of its temporariness is just mind-boggling. So of course it’s interesting to engage with and understand. And the second is really that something as phenomenal as this — the ephemeral megacity, as it’s been described — has never been studied as an urban organism. It’s been studied by anthropologists, political scientists, and in books about pilgrimage. Photographers have created volumes on it because of the visual spectacle. But it hasn’t been systematically studied as a temporary city.

Tarun Khanna: An enormous amount of urban planning, civil engineering, governance and adjudication, and maintenance of public goods — physical ones like toilets as well as intangibles such as law and order — and plans to deal with unexpected events go into the creation of this city. Those are pretty much the main elements surrounding the creation of any city in the world. The Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of humanity in the world. As social scientists, we don’t have the luxury to design experiments in the lab, so we are predisposed to take full advantage when these situations occur.

What surprised you the most during your time at the Kumbh Mela?

Tarun Khanna: What surprised me was the incessant sound. I live in Newton, Massachusetts, where there is no sound at any hour of the day. At the Mela there was sound 24 hours a day. It is an extreme version of Mumbai. On the positive side, everyone was happy and satisfied. There was no visible angst, which is incredible given that there are so many people. In a lot of the ways the thing that really puzzles people when this material shows up in the classroom is, how the heck is it possible for there to be no dissatisfaction at an event of this scale?

Rahul Mehrotra: I think the things that surprised me were how quickly this whole thing was deployed on the ground, because basically they had six weeks to get a city up and running with infrastructure, water supply, and electricity. That was an amazing surprise. But equally surprising was how quickly they dismantled it and how it disappeared in a matter of a couple of weeks, because the river starts to flood. They salvage all the materials, which get recycled to the hinterlands of the state to smaller towns and villages.

Did it appear especially difficult to organize given that the event is only held once every 12 years and there are presumably a lot of changes with organizers and personnel?

Rahul Mehrotra: Absolutely. What’s interesting is that it’s all based on oral tradition, so between the administrators there’s a sort of continuity — there are very few guidelines and very few guidebooks that would allow someone in charge 12 years later to know what to do. But there is a kind of oral memory; there’s an institutional memory that stays within the bureaucracy that enables this to happen. So people involved in the previous cycle step in as advisors. 2013 was the first time it’s been captured [academically] as a city. I say this jokingly or half-jokingly, but I’m afraid now that Harvard has produced a handbook on it, the next one might be a complete failure because they might follow the handbook instead of going by the oral memory of the institution. So this is always something that nags me (laughs).

Before the project began, some media outlets suggested that your research could yield findings applicable to everything from Burning Man to refugee camps. Was there any finding that really stuck out in this regard?

Rahul Mehrotra: I think one area where we learned a lot that can be applied was in governance. [Organizers] have almost two parallel governance systems — one during planning and one during implementation. The hierarches sort of flip, and this is very important because when you have to deploy quickly — like in refugee camps —  what happens is that the centralization of bureaucracy, whether international NGOs or other groups, often slows down the process a great deal because people who have the mind to plan at a macro level often don’t have the temperament or the mind to implement it on the ground. I think this results in a lot of failure in rapid deployment for disasters and refugee camps.

Tarun Khanna: One of the nice spin-offs has been the attention on refugee camps, which is so relevant today. People from the areas of health, design, business, finance, and law have come together to work on these problems, with some insights that are based on work done at the Mela. It’s such an important issue — it’s in the news now with the Syrian migrant crisis, it was in the news when Katrina hit. In the course I teach at Harvard, it’s a capstone session to have people think about what to do in this sort of crisis, and how various disciplines can be brought into the discussion to help.

Faith in a Smart City

This article was published in The Indian Express

By Mark Tully

India is not known for organisation, so it’s particularly gratifying to learn that the Maha Kumbh Mela of 2013 has been voted a success by a team of over 50 Harvard academics, students and researchers who came to Allahabad to study the world’s largest religious gathering. In this book, which is a report of their findings, the Harvard team from disciplines as diverse as divinity, business and governance, public health, science and arts have declared the Mela “a leadership and organisational success by any measure.” What’s more, they say it was organised in a “fast moving and highly dynamic environment which would normally be a ripe breeding ground for confusion”.

India is no stranger to confusion and that is why the much-talked-of jugaad, muddling through or miraculously rescuing a situation at the last moment is so common. But the Kumbh Mela, according to the Harvard team, was a carefully planned and efficiently executed operation.

In their report, the Harvard team lists the tasks that were achieved in the brief spell between the river waters receding at the end of October to allow work on the site to begin and January, when the Mela started. The tasks included laying 156 km of road with 18 pontoon bridges, and 770 km of electricity lines, providing 20,000 water tap connections and 40 active tube wells, 35, 000 individual toilets and 7,500 trench pattern toilets. An army of 12,461 state police had to be trained to man 30 temporary police stations. This was the infrastructure for “a temporary city which can host roughly the same number of people as mega-cities like New York and Delhi.” To describe the Kumbh as a “pop-up city”, which the team does throughout the report, does seem to me somehow diminishing a remarkable achievement.

The management of the Kumbh Mela was also a success, according to the Harvard team. They did not see “ hunger, uncontrolled fire, significant communicable disease outbreaks, nor major stampedes inside the grounds.” There was a stampede at Allahabad railway station on the most auspicious bathing day. The team blames that on the railways and “the subcontinent’s pervasive lack of a queuing culture”.

What enabled the government of Uttar Pradesh, a state renowned for ineffectiveness, to pull off this unique organisational triumph? It’s unique because of the short time-frame allowed for the construction of the city and the vast numbers who stayed in it, estimated at 70 million by the Harvard team. They attribute the success to the avoidance of practices which plague India. Random intervention by politicians and the government habitually undermines planning and implementation. But the Kumbh’s success, according to the Harvard team, “is attributable to constrained and selective government involvement, as compared to ubiquitous intervention.” Bureaucratic procedures were not the chronic problem they usually are. The prime minister, with his plans for smart cities, might take note of the finding that,“India’s handling of its rapid urbanisation is a far cry from the effectiveness displayed at the Kumbh Mela.”

While reporting on the last three Allahabad Kumbhs, I noticed a marked difference between the normal behaviour of the police and the behaviour of those handling the pilgrims. This seemed to me to be a major factor in the orderliness of the pilgrims. The Harvard team also remark on this when they say, “All actors involved in the organisation of the Kumbh are expected to have, and indeed do, show the greatest respect for the pilgrims.”

But, of course, the Kumbh isn’t just a unique feat of organisation and management. There would be no Kumbh if millions of Indians were not prepared to make considerable sacrifices to bathe in the Ganges at the Sangam in the mid-winter cold. Many spend nearly two months at the Kumbh in very primitive conditions. The distinguished Harvard scholar of religion Diana Eck, with Kalpesh Bhatt, has written a chapter in this report on understanding the Kumbh. They place sacrifice at the heart of the Kumbh, explaining that Prayag is regarded as “the foremost place of sacrifice” and the Kumbh “the best time to sacrifice”. There are sacrifices made by the pilgrims in getting to the Kumbh and living there, the sacrifices of the ascetics who die to the world when they are initiated into the akharas, the sacrifices of the leaders of religious organisations who set up camps, and the organisations and individuals who pay for everything except the infrastructure.

Spiritually, there is the sacrifice of the ego which many religious leaders told Eck and her team is “a common theme of the festival”. With it, comes humility and the willingness to sacrifice differences. So Eck and Bhatt conclude: “There is no other ecumenical event in the world held on such a vast scale where the ascetics and lay people from theologically disparate traditions coexist and coalesce.” The Kumbh is so ecumenical that one religious leader hosts a multi-faith dialogue between Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs.

So the Harvard report demonstrates the efficiency India can achieve. It promotes what Eck and Bhatt describe as “the pluralism inherent in Indian culture.” Compare the tolerance of that pluralism with the hatred of the other provoked by some in the name of what they claim is Indian culture.

Mark Tully is a journalist and writer based in Delhi

Tracking disease at the world’s largest religious festival

This article was originally published by the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

September, 24, 2015 — From July through September this year, up to 30 million people are traveling to the cities of Nashik and Trimbakeshwar in India to bathe in the holy waters of the Godavari River, as part of the Kumbh Mela Hindu religious festival. Amidst this mass gathering—supported by acres and acres of temporary parking lots, police stations, fire stations, health clinics, streetlights and toilets—a small band of health and IT experts from the U.S. and India has introduced a new mobile health surveillance system to help keep the millions of visitors healthy while they’re at the festival.

The Harvard South Asia Institute’s Jana Swasthya Project (“Jana Swasthya” means “public health” in Hindi), has two goals: One is to conduct disease surveillance in real time to help health workers at the festival nip potential outbreaks in the bud and allocate health resources wisely. Another is more long-term: to conduct a mass screening program for oral health and hypertension for visitors and workers at the festival.

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The Jana Swasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela: Ushering in India’s Mobile Health Revolution

The Harvard South Asia Institute is pleased to announce the launch of the JanaSwasthya Project at the 2015 Kumbh Mela in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar.

The JanaSwasthya Project comprises two components: a large-scale digital disease surveillance program, EMcounter, and a mass screening program for oral health, hypertension and diabetes offered to pilgrims, sadhus, security forces, and all visitors in Nashik and Trimbakeshwar.

The cornerstone of the project is a unique interactive visual analytic tool (“dashboard”) that provides critical disease surveillance data to health officials in real time. The dashboard went live at 8am on the morning of August 28th, and by evening had tracked over 2,000 visits recorded on government issued tablet devices at over 30 fixed and mobile health clinics serving pilgrims at the Mela.

This real-time disease surveillance program is unprecedented in its scale. Thousands of data points can be compared and contrasted using its many filters, proving to be an incredibly powerful tool for local public health planners.

Organized under the aegis of the Public Health Department, Government of Maharashtra, and supported by UNICEF, Colgate, and a range of local partners, the project builds on Harvard’s extensive research at the Allahabad Kumbh Mela in 2013.

Follow our team as we immerse ourselves in the world of pilgrims and tablets, the sacred and the scientific, Nashik and Trimbak, Shaivites and Vaishnavs, doctors and pharmacists, and technology and faith:

Visit the project’s website.