Some three dozen people were killed yesterday during a stampede at a train station in Allahabad, India during the Kumbh Mela festival. The festival is described as "the largest religious gathering on earth" which takes place every 12 years "on the banks of the 'Sangam'- the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati."
So, what happens at this Hindu religious festival?
From The New York Times article linked to above:
"Those who bathe in the conjoined waters are cleansed of their sins and given blessings that extend through several generations, Hindus say. Pilgrims make the trip not just for themselves but for their children and grandchildren.
N. K. Auddy, a consulting engineer from Kolkata, was taking part in his first Kumbh because his daughter recently gave birth to his first grandchild, and he was hoping for a divine blessing for the child. “I want him to have a good future,” Mr. Auddy said."
Seriously? How does one measure the difference in the lives of children or grandchildren of those whose ancestors bathe in the rivers and those who don't? It obviously didn't make a positive difference in the lives of the pilgrims who were trampled to death.
If Mr. Auddy's grandson is to have a good future, he'll be better served by having a loving, supportive family, access to a good education, clean drinking water and decent health care. I don't see how bathing in a river with millions of other people, which is not particularly sanitary, is going to provide a better future for his descendants.