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Abstract

Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest pilgrimage gathering on the shores of the River Ganges. Drawing on Lefebvre’s (1991) trialectics of space framework, this paper interrogates the spatial dynamics of the Kumbh Mela through the spatial meanings espoused by local and international pilgrims. Accounting for dominant discourses that frame the event as occurring in and around a sacred waterscape, five focus groups with pilgrims were conducted at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. The findings indicate that local pilgrims were aware of river pollution, but they used discursive strategies to decouple this material fact from their lived spiritual experiences; from this vantage point the sacred was believed to be insulated from the secular. International pilgrims’ perceptions significantly differed, from those of their local counterparts, in that the sacred waterscape was seen as polluted and the onus was on them to remedy what they believed locals had neglected to do; for this group cleaning the River was a sacred act. The findings indicate that despite the existence of dominant spatial conceptualisations of a sacred waterscape, through use of the space, new and often competing spatial meanings arise that illuminate our understanding of the human condition and the social relations therewithin.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.

DOI

https://doi.org/10.21427/dkc8-sv03

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