India’s foremost faith leaders came together at the Kumbha Mela for two historic events in which they combined forces to speak on the crucial importance of clean and healthy water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). At the events,  organised by the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and WASH United, the faith leaders emphasized the importance of toilet usage, noting that open defecation has been especially linked to the poor health of India’s children. An estimated 1,200 children under the age of five die every day in India due to the lack of healthy sanitation and hygiene practices. Many more face serious health problems, including stunted growth, largely because of India’s rampant lack of toilets.


This event was graced by the presence of:
Pujya Mahamandaleshwar Swami Gurusharananandji Maharaj, Raman Reti, Mathura
Pujya Swami Avdheshanand Giriji, Acharya Mahamandaleshwar of Juna Akhara
Jagadguru Ramandacharya Pujya Swami Hansdevacharyaji, Haridwar
Jagadguru Ramanujacharya Pujya Swami Vasudevacharyaji
Jagadguru Shri Shridharacharyaji Maharaj
Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), Co-Chair Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Founder of Ganga Action Parivar and Divine Shakti Foundation
Pujya Sant Shri Rameshbhai Ozaji (Pujya Bhaishri), Renowned Kathakar
Pujya Swami Gyananandji, Gita Manishi
Pujya Rajendra Dasji Maharaj,Maluk Peethadheeshwar, Vrindavan
Pujya Acharya Lokesh Muniji, Founder President of Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti (Jain Faith Leader)
Pujya Rakeshbhaiji, Founder President of Shreemad Rajchandra Mission (Jain Faith Leader)
Pujya Mahamandeleshwar Ishwar Dasji, Mahamandeleshwar from the Digambar Akhara
Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, President of Divine Shakti Foundation, Secretary General of Global Interfaith WASH Alliance
Pujya Mahamandeleshwar Shri Janard Hariji
Dr. Praveen Gedham, Nasik Commissioner
Shri Ashok Murtkadut, Mayor of Nasik
Ms. Shweta Shalini, Advisor to CM Maharashtra
Ms. Shalini Somane, Excise Tax Commissioner Mumbai
Ms. Ina Jurga, Head of Behaviour Change Communication, WASH United
And many others saints from other akharas…


During the two-day event, a new Swachh Kumbha Diwas campaign was launched, which deeply inspired devotees from across India and around the world to personally commit for a clean Kumbh Mela (Swachh Kumbh Mela) and a clean India (Swachh Bharat), using the slogan, “Every Body is a Temple. Respect it. Keep it Clean, and Use Toilets.”

The saints all applied sacred tilak (kumkum) onto a large map of India, signifying their pledge to work for improved WASH in India through raising awareness and working to change the behaviour of their followers, and to eradicate open defecation. The tilak also signified their blessing that India should become open defecation free. They took part in a beautiful water blessing ceremony in which they poured holy water from the Godavari River over a globe, symbolizing a prayer for action so that people all around the world have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).