Maha Kumbh Mela: Now a Harvard University case study
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The outcomes by each school's research team would be presented by students and faculty at a university-side symposium hosted by the South Asia Initiative in the spring semester 2013, and will be submitted for a final visual and textual publication.
Plaster said the religious gathering caught Harvard's attention as it saw the Kumbh Mela as a "unique opportunity to study the formation and inner-workings of a pop-up mega city."
"Where recently there was nothing but a barren flood plain there will soon be a thriving 'city' complete with hospitals, sanitation systems, markets and police.
"The Kumbh has always operated in this capacity, but for a variety of reasons, the 2013 festival represents a significant shift towards seeing the festival as a seminal academic learning environment," he added.
With the Maha Kumbh Mela taking place once every 12 years, the year 2013 marks the first Kumbh which would be criss-crossed with cell phone towers and where a critical mass of people would be using mobile phones.
"That environment creates a unique opportunity for researchers interested in studying big data. They'll be looking into questions like how anonymised cell phone data can assist in infectious disease mapping," Plaster said.