A confluence of divine and digital at the kumbh

From smart parking to virtual darshan, fair becomes a platform for start-ups to showcase their technologies


Devotees take holy dip in the Kshipra River during month long Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Photo: PTI
Devotees take holy dip in the Kshipra River during month long Simhastha Maha Kumbh Mela in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Every 12 years, when the sun is in the Aries constellation and Jupiter transits Leo, the Ujjain Simhasth kumbh is held on the banks of the Kshipra river in Madhya Pradesh. The kumbh is a Hindu religious fair where the highlight is a bath in the holy river, which is supposed to cleanse one’s sins.

With smart parking, virtual darshan, coded entry, e-rickshaws, high-tech cooking, live video streaming, drone monitoring, 6,000 closed-circuit cameras with face and behaviour detection, this year’s kumbh is a combination of the divine and the digital. The fair, which started on 22 April and goes on till 21 May, is also a platform for some home-grown start-ups to showcase their technologies.

State-owned telco Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd has laid around 100km of optical fiber cables and associated equipment with 73 Wi-Fi hotspots.

The district administration and kumbh organizers have jointly developed a mobile app with information on helpline, contact numbers, days of the full moon holy dip, and other important days.

A district administration official claimed that there were online bookings for the famous Bhasm Aarti till 22 April.

“We wanted to give a high-end technology experience to the people and make things very systematic. Most of the work allocated was through online tendering and we are happy to tell that a lot of these facilities are being provided by start-ups which are hardly 2-5 years old,” the official said, requesting anonymity.

A parking solution is provided by one-year-old Delhi-based start-up getmyparking.com. Pilgrims can choose their spots from 11 parking lots through a mobile app or by visiting getmyparking.com. The company provides parking details for scooters, car, buses and tractors.

Getmyparking co-founder Rasik Pansare said parking was fully digitized and people book their parking space before leaving for the venue. He said an Indian on an average spends around 20 minutes a day looking for parking. He said his company was working with local company Devas Transport, where the latter collects parking fee and manages the site.

You can find queues outside tents that offer a virtual reality view of the Bhasm Aarti. The service is provided by Indore-based Twist Mobile, which uses its TMVR–VR technology. Twist Mobile co-founder Virat Khutal said his company came up with the idea since the temple premises could not accommodate the 70 million people that the district administration expected to turn up for the Bhasm Aarti.

“We approached the district administration and they loved our idea. We were given special permission to shoot the Aarti and with our virtual reality technology, people just feel like being at the premises,” he said.

Twist Mobile uses Google’s Cardboard Virtual Reality and Oculus Rift headsets. The company has erected 5’x5’ booths near the Simhasth premises.

“We have developed an application called Twist Mobile Virtual Reality of India, which is available on Google Play Store for free. The Google Cardboards are kept in hotels, buses and shops in and around Ujjain, Dewas and Indore,” Khutal said.

It took the start-up six months to shoot videos of the temple. It has set up 20 stalls with 5,000 Google Cardboards and two Oculus Rift VR headsets. It costs Rs.100 per head for ordinary visitors and Rs.250 for VIPs.

Healthcare start-up Medd is providing some preventive health checks for Rs.1 at its stalls near the venue. Visitors can download the Medd mobile app and register themselves for booking lab tests and scans.

The health ministry has deployed a mobile telemedicine van with doctors from AIIMS Bhopal and Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow, with equipment to check blood pressure, diabetes and ECG, dermatology tests, ophthalmology tests, X-Ray etc. The van also works as a mobile health facility where doctors are consulted from far-off hospitals through video conferencing. There is a 450-bed hospital at the Simhasth Mela area.

The Indian Space Research Organisation monitors the kumbh through its satellites. The district administration said 300 e-rickshaws have been deployed to transport senior citizens and differently-abled people.

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