A little festival of tribal origin in Andhra Pradesh has become a major pilgrimage in the last six years. The Sammakka festival is held once in every two years at Medaram, in the heart of the thick forests of warangal district. The population of the little forest village at Medaram in normal times never exceeds 300. Suddenly, during the month of February it rises to over 90 Lakhs.... of devotees come from all over Andhra Pradesh and five neighboring statesthe wikipedia tells you over 70 million people attended the ardh kumbh mela in allahabad in january 2007. allahabad has a population of over a million. less than 300 people live in medaram. which means allahabad attracted 70 times as many pilgrims as residents during the mela, while medaram drew 30,000 times as many pilgrims as residents. there isn't even a permanent structure in medaram, leave alone a couple of huge perennial rivers, thousands of temples and a huge city: so, what explains the medaram phenomenon? medarams happen all over india, all through the year. within a radius of 1 km from my home, there are around a dozen tiny roadside shrines, most of them are no more than waist high structures, which suddenly sprout huge festive crowds every once in a while- people offering animals, setting up stoves and cooking on the pavements, eating, drinking on the roads while hindus pass them by on cars, bikes and buses. together, all these medarams across the country constitute a fragmented kumbh mela which attracts several times more pilgrims, in one year, than the kumbh mela does in six years, or twelve years. the kumbh is for those who have scriptures, the fragmented mela is for those who do not have even regular priests, most times.
medaram is in the middle of nowhere, while allahabad has been at the confluence of rivers, roads, empires and civilizations for at least two millennia. medaram doesn't figure in any of the scriptures- vedas, itihasas or puranas. allahabad is one of the holiest hindu pilgrim sites in india and the most important of the four cities where the kumbh is held. medaram is in the middle of a forest that stretches across five states, the dandakaranya, and allahabad is in the middle of a region that boasts of some of the oldest cities in all of asia. which means all of the world. i don't think anyone from medaram has ever stepped into any indian prime minister's house. allahabad, according to the wikipedia, has produced 7 out of 14 prime ministers of india until now. i could go on, but..
why am i making this comparison? a comment (here) triggered off this train of thought. there are probably as many reasons as hindu gods why most people in india would've heard of prayaga. is there a respectable magazine in the world that doesn't carry a story or a picture of the kumbh when it's on? think of all the agencies that have worked since the beginning of the kumbh, thousands of years ago, at making it known to the world. yes, i've heard of the concepts of karma, dharma, papa and all other indicators of sanskritization- tell me, how does one manage to not hear about them?
the brahmin is a hindu, as are the members of those communities which correspond to the other two higher varnas, especially in those states once referred to, loosely, as aryavarta. in the rest of india, we can see, over several centuries after the arrival of the muslims, a handful of shudra castes in every state have steadily come to play the role of those two varnas (kshatriya and vaishya). this happened more rapidly during british rule, and much more dramatically after independence. we now refer to them as the intermediate castes or the upper obcs, and they don't number more than 50, across india. sanskritization worked for them.
like i said, they don't number more than 50 (maybe upto 75 or a little more, of 3000-6000 castes in india). who are the rest? haven't they heard of sanskritization and the fluidity of the caste system?