No sangam at Sangam, foreign devotees told to act, talk, eat like Indians
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When at Kumbh, do as Indians do. This is the message to the foreign devotees coming to Kumbh-2013 from the gurus or the organisers of the camps, where they are present in large numbers. While in some cases, the list of dos and don'ts has been spelt out through letter or declaration forms, the issue is dealt with verbally in the other camps. The foreign devotees are not only told about what not to eat or drink, but also what and how to wear as a mark of respect to the Indian culture and customs.
As it is, meat, drugs and alcohol are a strict no in all the camps, in keeping with the spiritual nature of the mega-festival.
Sri Prem Baba, who is from Brazil, is among those to have written a letter to his devotees on clothing and behaviour. The letter, for instance, says that the women should wear Indian clothes, preferably saris, and shawls in the ashram. Men too have been advised to wear north Indian dresses. The women devotees have also been advised not to hug and kiss, which is a common way of greeting in their countries. It also reminds the devotees to take off their shoes at all sacred environments.
The letter, written in Portuguese, reminds the devotees not to forget that they were the guests and that their "role was to observe and not judge."
"The style of the West is very different from here. These guidelines are absolutely necessary. I am working towards bridging the gap between the two worlds. We have to tell our devotees how to respect the sacredness of the tradition here," said Prem Baba, when asked about the need for issuing guidelines.
At Parmarth Niketan's camp of Chidananand Saraswati, those arriving have to sign a list of dos and don'ts. "The form tells them that they are entering a sacred area and they give an undertaking that they will be refraining from certain things," said Director (Programme Implementation), Parmarth Niketan.