The scale of Indian festivals can be mind boggling. A gathering of a few lakh people would tend to make waves outside India. But here these gatherings are like a monthly event at prominent temples during the full moon or some other auspicious day.
Mahashivratri will see a multitude of such gatherings in Shiva temples around the country. Here’s a look at the workings of one such event – the Isha Mahashivratri that takes place at the foothills of the Velliangiri mountains on the outskirts of Coimbatore.
With the making of the Adiyogi, Isha now has one of the most surreal backdrops for their Mahashivratri event. In front of this 112ft tall Shiva face is the stage for their night-long event. Beyond it is the seating area for over one lakh people.
While the total attendance is over 5 lakhs every year, it is a moving crowd with many engaging activities.
Diverse Activities To Engage The Visitors
The night-long event of dance, music, Sadhguru discourses, chanting and more is watched by millions around the world with about 100 TV channels and many more social media channels broadcasting it.
Around the Adiyogi are over 200 stalls from every Indian state with indigenous weaves, tribal products, foods and other products. In another section there are cattle stalls. To us urban folk, this may only seem like a novelty but for many farmers this is a serious affair. Many farmers in the region, specifically visit the event for this cattle fair.
This is because 20 of India’s 37 indigenous cattle breeds will be on display here. Some of these breeds are endangered and may rarely be seen elsewhere.
A visit to the Dhyanalinga temple is a must this festival. It is a silent temple maintained by hundreds of volunteers throughout the night. As the name suggests, it is a space for meditation.
Behind this temple is the Linga Bhairavi Devi shrine which will also be open through the night. While the Dhyanalinga is silent and imposing, the Devi temple is a colourful, vibrant space where many rituals are performed. A devi stuti plays in the background continuously throughout the day. Often devotees will start chanting or singing with it on their own.
In this temple complex outside the Dhyanalinga is one of the largest Nandi statues in the world. A lot of people sit by this Nandi in the open area to chant, meditate and practise yoga. or even do yoga practices.
Part of this temple complex are also two dipping pools – the suryakund for men and
chandrakund for women. These will also be open through the night for the devotees to take a refreshing dip before their temple visit.
Apart from this, there are other smaller stalls, eateries and engagement points which keep a large part of the visitors moving through the night.
With lakhs of people congregating at the venue, safety is a key focus. Volunteers are stationed at all points to guide the people and answer queries and troubleshoot. Additionally 3000+ police officers and a few hundred private security men will also be present to ensure law and order.
The medical team is over 100 people strong. It includes 30+ professional volunteer doctors. And it is fully equipped for intensive care from minor injuries to serious issues. They have 7 medical tents scattered across the venue and different ashram areas have also been equipped with first aid kits.
The event planning from fire safety, emergency exits and layout are done by top professionals.
For the Isha volunteers, one highlight of the event is the Maha Annadaanam that happens every Mahashivratri night. As part of this, the night meal is offered for free to everyone at this event.
Almost a third of the 5,000 odd volunteers are occupied with this work. They work on everything from chopping, to serving and managing the dining space. They are supported by a small team of 30 paid staff.
This year the food will be cooked on the ground itself. The aim is to provide freshly cooked meal to everyone within 2.5 hours of its cooking. As that is the recommendation from Sadhguru about healthy eating habits.
And finally, how are these lakhs of people to get here, the venue being 30 kms from the city?
Earlier on the Coimbatore district collector organised a meeting with transport, power, public works, highways, airport so that all the various departments are prepped up for the higher footfall and demand. All the departments have thought through the requirements. The bus services, for example, have arranged for one bus every minute starting from the city bus stand to Isha Yoga Center. Thus catering to the transport needs of the visitors.
And at the event side, adequate parking for thousands of private vehicles has been managed around the venue through meticulous planning. Each of these parking areas has first aid kits, volunteers and staff to support the visitor requirements.
The stage is set for this mega event. And these lakhs of visitors will be provided a lovely
experience with only 5,000 odd volunteers supported by a small number of paid sevadars and private groups.
As Sadhguru says,
“This night should be an inspiration for you to live a life that is truly exuberant, beyond the limits of body and mind.”
And when we see that these volunteers who’ve worked hard and barely slept in the past few days are dancing away joyfully in the wee hours, it transforms this event into one big party!