The world is witnessing a migration every hour. It is either people fleeing a war zone, traveling to a new place for better opportunities, or leaving a place ravished by hunger. But some migrations take place during happier and peaceful times, and some of these are the largest in the world, seeing the movement of hundreds and thousands of people during a specific period.
Currently the largest annual human migration in the world is seen around the time of the Chinese New Year. The Chunyun, which is also known as the Spring Festival travel period, is observed for 40 days and starts some 15 days prior to the Lunar New Year’s Day. Billions of people travel during the period by rail, air, or road. In 2016 around 2.9 billion and in 2019 it is projected that 3 billion people will travel during this time. It is common for people in cities and urban areas to meet their family members in the rural parts of the country. This often leads to overcrowding. However, the most impacted are train services and road networks, as most people rely on them. Air services are also affected but not to that extent as a majority of the workers are unable to afford it.
The period around Thanksgiving sees the second largest annual human migration, particularly in North America. Thanksgiving Day falls on the fourth Thursday of November and the week is usually defined as the holiday period. The season sees packed airports and heavy rail and road traffic. In 2018 a whopping 54 million people traveling to other parts of the country to spend the vacations with their loved ones.
Karbala in Iraq witnesses the third largest public gathering in the world. Arba’een Pilgrimage is held every year and marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for Prophet Mohammad’s grandson and Husayn ibn Ali, the third Shia Imam. The pilgrims walk to Karbala from far off areas. For the convenience of the pilgrims, food and accommodation are provided by volunteers. 2016 saw about 30 million people taking part in the pilgrimage.
Kumbh Mela is a Hindu pilgrimage. Four fairs are mainly recognized as the Kumbh Melas. These are held periodically by rotation at Prayagraj, Nashik, Haridwar and Ujjain. The fairs are Prayagraj Kumbh Mela, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, Ujjain Simhastha and Nashik-Trimbakeshwar. Kumbh Mela witnessed the participation of around 120 million people over a two-month period in 2013.
The Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia. Hajj saw 2.3 million people traveling to Saudi Arabia in 2018.