Slogans such as “Kumbh chalo” set against images of Naga sadhus and people taking a dip at the Prayag will feature on the coaches of the special trains the Indian Railways is set to run for the Ardh Kumbh Mela – the mega holy event that is slated to start next month and is expected to attract close to 120 million people.
The national transporter has started the massive task of vinyl wrapping 1,600 coaches of the 800 special trains here with pictures and messages about the Kumbh, along with a logo specially designed for the occasion.
Each coach of a special train meant to ferry pilgrims will have the Kumbh logo and varied images of the fair such as bare-bodied Naga sadhus smeared with ash, and scenes from the Shahi Snan (royal bath) and the evening prayer.
The recently christened Prayagraj, headquarters of the North Central Railway, is the nerve-centre of the event, which is expected to attract about 120 million people – or almost twice the population of Britain — during the holy festival at the confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati rivers at the Prayag.
Pilgrims are expected arrive from all over the country and abroad – with most arriving on the special days of the Ardh Kumbh Mela, which will run from January 15 to March 4, 2019.
According to the state government, 12 million pilgrims are expected on January 15 (Makar Sankranti), 5.5 million on Januray 21 (Paush Purnima), 30 million on February 4 (Mauni Amavasya), 20 million on February 10 (Basant Panchami), 16 million on February 19 (Maghi Purnima), and 6 million on March 4 (Mahashivratri).
“While the regular train services to Allahabad will be augmented with extra coaches, there will be 800 special trains pressed into service during the nearly three-month long Kumbh fair at Prayagraj,” North Central Railways General Manager Rajeev Choudhury told this correspondent.
“The event is a massive one and the aim is to spread its message all over the country, which will help attract more tourists,” Mr Choudhury said, adding: “Besides, the coaches will also have Uttar Pradesh tourism-related images.”
Railways will ensure superior cleanliness using mechanised cleaning and has outsourced the cleaning of stations to private players during the fair.
Four big enclosures to house about 10,000 pilgrims are under construction at Allahabad Junction which will have vending stalls, water booths, ticket counters, LCD TVs, passenger announcing systems, CCTVs and separate toilets blocks for men and women.
Railways has permitted the construction of public toilets near stations on its land by Allahabad Municipal Corporation, in order to prevent open defecation.
Construction of temporary operational helipad is also in progress at Hariharvan village near the city.