Social Production and Consumption of Space: A Lefebvrian Analysis of the Kumbh Mela

Christine Buzinde, David Manuel-Navarrete, Jyotsna M. Kalavar, Neena Kohli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kumbh Mela is the world’s largest pilgrimage gathering on the shores of the River Ganges. Drawing on Lefebvre’s (1991) trialectics of space framework, this paper interrogates the spatial dynamics of the Kumbh Mela through the spatial meanings espoused by local and international pilgrims. Accounting for dominant discourses that frame the event as occurring in and around a sacred waterscape, five focus groups with pilgrims were conducted at the Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. The findings indicate that local pilgrims were aware of river pollution, but they used discursive strategies to decouple this material fact from their lived spiritual experiences; from this vantage point the sacred was believed to be insulated from the secular. International pilgrims’ perceptions significantly differed, from those of their local counterparts, in that the sacred waterscape was seen as polluted and the onus was on them to remedy what they believed locals had neglected to do; for this group cleaning the River was a sacred act. The findings indicate that despite the existence of dominant spatial conceptualisations of a sacred waterscape, through use of the space, new and often competing spatial meanings arise that illuminate our understanding of the human condition and the social relations therewithin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)178-188
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Religious Tourism and Pilgrimage
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Ganges
  • India
  • Kumbh Mela
  • Pilgrimage
  • Sacred waterscapes
  • Trialectics of space

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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