The Kumbh Mela Experiment (KME): Measuring and Understanding the dynamics of mankind's largest crowd - Experiences from Kumbh Mela 2016 in Ujjain

Institute for Transport Studies research seminar with speaker Dr Ashish Verma, Indian Institute of Science.

The large religious events in India have always thrown un-imaginable challenges of managing super dense pedestrian movements within a limited area. Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river. It is considered to be largest peaceful gathering in the world with estimated 100 million people visiting during the Kumbh Mela in 2013 in Allahabad, India and an estimated 75 million people visiting the Kumbh Mela recently held in 2016 in Ujjain, India. The safe mobility of pedestrians and crowd management during these events has always been a matter of concern for organizers and government authorities. The problem is compounded due to absence of reliable and real-time data to track movement of pedestrians and pedestrian density in designated areas. With the aim to gain more fundamental understanding of pedestrian dynamics in mass gatherings and using that knowledge to make such events safer, a major international collaborative research project called Kumbh Mela Experiment (KME) has been recently undertaken.


The Kumbh Mela Experiment is an ongoing Indo-Dutch collaborative research project funded jointly by Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY), Govt. of India and Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO), Netherlands. The Transportation Engineering (TE) Lab. at Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore is the lead partner of this project. The aim of the project is to use big data and Internet of Things (IOT) for understanding crowd dynamics in mass gatherings and develop crowd management solution particularly focusing on crowd risk. The project aims to deliver the core components of an entire crowd management solution, all the way from designing and building personnel devices for tracking movement (or more precisely human-to-human interaction) to developing advanced computational models to help predict how the crowd may evolve.


This leads to a vision of a living simulation where various data sources (personal devices, video cameras, smart phones, monitoring drones) can be fused into models and executed on an advanced compute infrastructure capable of providing both a prioi planning, as well as real-time reactive decision-making.
As the name clearly suggests, the data collection was done during the recently held Kumbh Mela (Simhasth-2016) in Ujjain, M.P., India during 22nd April to 21st May 2016. An "Indo-Dutch Collaborative Research Camp" was set up in a farm land of about 27,000 Sq.ft in the Kumbh Mela Area for the months of April and May 2016 to carry out data collection and experimentation activities during Simhasth-2016 for the Kumbh Mela Experiment project. A core team of 45 researchers from India, Netherlands, Russia, and Singapore worked in the research camp on about 20 different experiments defined under the project. Besides this, about 120 internship students from Engineering, Management, and Planning institutes across India were recruited to work under this project and carried out their activities from the camp. The primary data sources/devices used were; about 540 wearable tracking devices, 3000 wearable lanyard devices, Go Pro cameras, drones, questionnaire survey etc. The secondary data sources includes; Police CCTV camera data and drone data, Mahakal Temple CCTV data, etc. This presentation on KME will explain the scientific aspects of the project and the experiences of data collection.

Bio: Dr. Ashish Verma is a Ph.D. from IIT Bombay and currently serving as Associate Professor of Transportation Eng. at the Dept. of Civil Eng. Centre for infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation, and Urban Planning (CiSTUP), and Robert Bosch Centre for Cyber Physical Systems (RBCCPS) at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, India. Before joining IISc, he has served in IIT Guwahati, and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). His research interests are in; sustainable transportation planning and policy, public transport planning and management, modelling and optimization of sustainable transportation systems, non-motorized transport planning and policy etc. He has authored more than 120 research publications so far. He has also authored a book on “Public Transport Planning and Management in Developing Countries” published by CRC Press. He is Editor of Transport Policy, Elsevier; Associate Editor of ‘Urban Rail Transit’, Springer. He is the Founding and Current President of Transportation Research Group of India (TRG). He is presently serving as Country Representative from India, Vice Chair (Conference) of Scientific Committee, and Steering Committee Member of World Conference on Transport Research Society (WCTRS) based in University of Leeds, UK. He is also Co-Chair of Special Interest Group (SIG) H2 and G6 of WCTRS, which are focused on transportation in developing economies and disaster resilience.


Institute for Transport Studies Research Seminar Series: Our seminar series is for anyone interested in the latest transport research. Presented by members of the Institute and guest speakers, the programme is designed to stimulate cross-disciplinary conversations across a range of transport and mobility research areas. The short seminars will be followed by a discussion. The remainder of the session will be a chance to meet up and network. No booking required.