Bay Area man to join largest gathering on Earth

February 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The largest gathering of people on Earth is getting underway. It's happening now in India and later this week, one Bay Area man will be joining the tens of millions of Hindus for what he expects will be the experience of a lifetime.

Dheeraj Handa of Pleasanton is a devout Hindu and on Thursday, he's flying to India for Kumbh Mela. It's a religious festival in Uttar Pradesh that happens once every 12 years. But this year more than 100 million will descend on the area and they will take a dip in the sacred Ganges River.

"I am taking this shorts which I can wear in the river," said Handa.

Dheeraj is packing light.

"For me, it is worth any pain I would take and I pray to have courage and strength to take this pilgrimage," said Handa.

This pilgrimage has grown dramatically since 2001, the last Kumbh Mela.

"You're talking 110-120 million people it is in one location the largest gathering of humans on Earth," said Samir Kalra of the Hindu American Foundation.

A satellite photo taken from space above Kumbh Mela shows millions of red dots, which are people. One reason for the rise in attendance is technology and social media. High definition cameras are everywhere and the festival even has its own Facebook fan page that's creating a buzz.

"Today thanks to Facebook and especially Google Plus and there are several social networks in India that are also growing very quickly. Events like this can easily drive in a lot of viral traffic," said Sahas Katta, the Technology Publishing Co. founder.

Kumbh Mela has also attracted the attention of Harvard University, which sent 36 students and faculty members to the festival to study the logistics involved in creating a pop-up mega city.


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