Background: Mass gatherings including a large number of people makes the planning and management of the event a difficult task. Kumbh Mela is one such, internationally famous religious mass gathering. It creates the substantial challenge of creating a temporary city in which millions of people can stay for a defined period of time. The arrangements need to allow this very large number of people to reside with proper human waste disposal, medical services, adequate supplies of food and clean water, transportation etc.
Methods: We report a case study of Maha Kumbh, 2013 which focuses on the management and planning that went into the preparation of Kumbh Mela and understanding its water, sanitation and hygiene conditions. It was an observational cross-sectional study, the field work was done for 13 days, from 21 January to 2 February 2013.
Results: Our findings suggest that the Mela committee and all other agencies involved in Mela management proved to be successful in supervising the event and making it convenient, efficient and safe. Health care services and water sanitation and hygiene conditions were found to be satisfactory. BhuleBhatke Kendra (Center for helping people who got separated from their families) had the major task of finding missing people and helping them to meet their families. Some of the shortfalls identified were that drainage was a major problem and some fire incidents were reported. Therefore, improvement in drainage facilities and reduction in fire incidents are essential to making Mela cleaner and safer. The number of persons per toilet was high and there were no separate toilets for males and females. Special facilities and separate toilets for men and women will improve their stay in Mela.
Conclusion: Inculcation of modern methods and technologies are likely to help in supporting crowd management and improving water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the continuously expanding KumbhMela, in the coming years.