Travelling all the way from your abode to a ‘holy land’ for a pilgrimage, you would think you were due some protection from your God. As we’ve found out numerous times throughout history, that’s not particularly true.
And this year’s Hajj pilgrimage was not exempt from such unfortunate events. A few days before the pilgrimage kicked off, a crane collapsed on the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing almost a hundred and injuring many more.
During the pilgrimage itself, a stampede during the ‘stoning of the devil’ ritual killed over 700 pilgrims, injuring a hell of a lot more. The pilgrimage always draws huge numbers as a portion of the world’s over a billion Muslims converge on the holy city to conduct the required pilgrimage, so the tiniest accident leads to a huge number of deceased.
It always raises questions, the aftermath of such tragedies. Not to put too fine a point of it, but such a gathering of the faithful to carry out an action mandated by God should at the very least have his protection. That it doesn’t raises legitimate questions over the supposed omniscience and omnipotence of said beloved deity; philosophical and mental gymnastics notwithstanding.
MP’s of the Indian state Madhya Pradesh are worried such a similar event might occur during an upcoming Hindu ceremony. The Simhastha Kumbh mela is set to be held in Ujjain between April and May next year.
“The fair is celebrated once in every 12 years on the banks of river Kshipra, and this year around 30 million faithful are expected to visit Ujjain for a holy dip in the river.” The Hindustan times reports.
Looking at earlier pilgrimages which has recorded some calamities, and worried of what calamities might befall them during the pilgrimage, they have taking some real drastic measures to tackle it.
So in response, what have they done? Did they check with scientists to see if any natural disaster is pointed their way around that time next year? Did they implement measures to mitigate the problems noticed during past pilgrimages? No, they are hiring a crack team of astrologers to read the stars, and find a way for them to appease the gods to prevent the disaster.
“The MP’s BJP government led by Shivraj Singh Chouhan has constituted a team of astrologers to pacify the gods and grahas ahead of the Simhastha Kumbh mela, to be held in Ujjain between April and May next year.” The Times report further states.
“Diwakar Vasudev Natu, the president of Simhastha mela authority, said the team of nine astrologers was formed by the government to ward off the possible evil effects of ‘guru chandal yogam’, a planetary event involving Jupiter, Rahu (a rogue planet), Gulika (a satellite of Saturn) and Ketu (a shadow planet).
“The guru chandal yogam is considered inauspicious and is coinciding with the Simhastha fair. It is believed that a major tragedy might occur during this phase,” Natu added.
Pandit Anand Shankar Vyas, one of the panel members, said that “calamity might strike in the form of tremors leading to stampede, outburst of poisonous gasses, explosion, or in the form of epidemic.”
He added that while it was impossible to avoid the celestial conjunction, “we can gather strength to subdue its affects”.
Tragedies at Indian festivals in the past have caused real damage, such as in July, when at least 27 people were crushed to death on the banks of the river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh during a major religious festival.
So there are real solutions to be explored for the safety of those who would attend the festival. Wasting resources on people supposed to read the stars and avert the disaster seems like a massive waste of everyone’s time.
Like several events have shown, the gods do not particularly care what we do. We better take care of ourselves.