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Activity participation, Activity duration, and Stop-making behavior of Pilgrims at Kumbh Mela

Activity participation, Activity duration, and Stop-making behavior of Pilgrims at Kumbh Mela

Ashish Vermaa*, Meghna Vermab*, Punyabeet Sarangic*, Vivek Yadavd*, Manoj Me*

a Associate professor, Department of Civil Engineering and Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber-Physical Systems, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore-560012, Karnataka, India. Email: ashishv@iisc.ac.in *(Corresponding Author)

bAssistant Professor, Ramaiah Institute of Management, Bangalore – 560012, Karnataka, India, Email id: meghnaverma75@gmail.com, meghna@msrim.org

cEx-Project Associate, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore-560012, Karnataka, India. Email: punyabeet.sarangi287@gmail.com,

dEx-Project Assistant, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – 560012, Karnataka, India. Email: vivekyadav2691@gmail.com

eAssistant Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi110016, Hauz Khas New Delhi, India. Email: manojm@civil.iitd.ac.in

Religious tourism has existed for many centuries and is now a rapidly growing market with a significant positive impact on the economic growth of several countries. Broadly, any travel made to religious sites can be classified as religious tourism. India, being home to several religions, attracts tourists from not only various parts of India but also people from other countries to explore the religious events and understand cultural diversity. Thousands of people interact and socialize in these religious events, participate in religious activities, and perform the pilgrimage. Due to a large influx of crowd in these religious events, pre-planning and managing the event becomes the top priority for the event planners and crowd managers. A better understanding of crowd socio-demographic characteristics, effect of climatic conditions on crowd behavior, number of tours made during their stay, and their likelihood of participating in various religious activities helps event managers to mitigate congestion and form better strategies from a planning perspective. Based on this motivation, the study undertakes the following objectives – i. Examine the causal effects of socio-demographic and daily local temperature on activity participation, trip chain type, and time allocation of individuals using structural equation modeling (SEM). ii. Study the impact of socio-demographic variables and activity patterns on the propensity of stop-making behavior using ordered logit (OL) framework to manage the influx of flows.

Kumbh Mela event is used as a case study. It is the largest mass religious gathering, held in Ujjain, India, from 21st April to 22nd May 2016. About 75 million tourists attended this month-long event, and about 12 million people took holy dip on 21st May 2016, which is one of the shahi-snan (holy dip) days during Kumbh. Around 3061 hectares of land divided into 6 zones (as shown in Figure 1) was acquired for the Kumbh Mela event to establish satellite towns with several services like ambulances, hospitals, changing rooms, community kitchens, decorative huts, e-rickshaws, call centers, resting area shelters, toilets, water huts, ATM’s, spiritual camps, religious tents etc. Data was collected using a paper-based questionnaire survey that recorded the demographics of participants and their activity schedules during their visit to Kumbh Mela. Activity tracking was done by accompanying the pilgrims in their journey with wearable GPS devices. Respondents were chosen randomly from various locations such as hotels, bus stops, Dharamshala, Akharas (a place with boarding and lodging facilities for sadhus) as these spots were either the starting or resting points of the tourists. The percentage shares of socio-demographic characteristics of the sample (N = 2523) are shown in Figure 2.

Further, tourists participated in various types of activities during their stay in Kumbh Mela. Activities were broadly classified into primary religious, secondary religious, recreational, and discretionary activities. Primary religious activities included offering prayer, taking a holy dip, visiting temples, and visiting camps/akharas as they are the primary reason for the tourists to attend Kumbh Mela. Other religious activities such as listening to preaching, reading holy books, meeting sadhus (saints), etc., are derived as a consequence of participating in primary activities; hence they are classified as secondary religious activities. Recreational activities included performing yoga, shopping, cleaning ghats, etc., whereas discretionary activities consisted of eating, using comfort stations, resting etc. About 93% of tourists participated in primary religious, 22% in secondary religious, 44% in recreational, and about 84% in discretionary activities. The trips taken to participated in these activities were further classified as simple or complex trip chains based on the number of stops taken during an entire tour of Kumbh Mela with sample shares of 8.76% and 91.24%, respectively.

SEM framework explores the direct, indirect, and total effects of socio-demographic variables and climatic conditions on tourists' travel patterns, which includes activity time spent and trip chain type. The indirect effects are mediated through activity participation in primary religious, secondary religious, and recreational activities. From the SEM results, it is found that young (below 35 yrs) and old (above 55 yrs) age visitors prefer participating in single activities, whereas middle-aged individuals participate in multiple combinations of activities and thus follow complex chains. Males are less likely to make multiple stops (hence less complex trip chains). As the members of family within a tour group visiting Kumbh increases, their propensity to take complex trip chains also decreases. Tourists who participated in primary and secondary religious activities tend to spend more time at Kumbh than tourists who visit Kumbh for recreational purposes only.

The ordered logit model was used to understand the propensity of individuals to undertake activity episodes at Kumbh Mela with the assumption that their propensity varied across individual traits of pilgrims. Findings indicated that males have a lower tendency to take multiple stops for primary religious activities while they have a positive association with the number of discretionary activity stops being taken. Visitors with primary level of education (who have completed schooling only) are more inclined to indulge in recreational and discretionary activities, while individuals who have completed intermediate or graduates are more likely to get involved in religious activities. Home-makers are more inclined to undertake primary religious episodes, while students have a higher inclination towards recreational activities. As temperature rises, tourists are less likely to participate in recreational and discretionary activities. Tourists who decided to participate in secondary religious or recreational, or discretionary activities are most likely to include religious activity stops in their trip chain.

 Full Reference of the article

Verma, A., Verma M., Sarangi P., Yadav V., Manoj M., (2020). “Activity participation, Episode Duration and Stop-making behavior of Pilgrims in a Religious Event: An Exploratory Analysis” Journal of Choice Modeling, Elsevier, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocm.2021.100267

Figure 1. Geographical representation of Kumbh Mela zones held at Ujjain in 2016

Figure 2. Socio-demographic characteristics