Kumbh Mela Now ‘Symbolic’, Yet Crowds Gather for Last ‘Shahi Snan’
Visuals showed scores of pilgrims taking a holy dip in the Ganga, flouting physical distancing measures.
Despite the mounting COVID-19 cases that have left the country’s hospitals and crematoriums overburdened, a crowd of Hindu devotees gathered at ‘Har Ki Pauri’ in Haridwar on Tuesday, 27 April, for the last ‘shahi snan’ at the Kumbh Mela.
Over 2,000 seers from 13 different akhadas and 25,000 devotees bathed in the Brahma Kund at Har Ki Pauri on Tuesday, as per PTI.
Visuals showed scores of pilgrims taking a holy dip in the Ganga, flouting physical distancing measures with no masks in sight.
Uttarakhand, in light of the surge in cases has imposed a curfew in Haridwar, Roorkee, Laksar and Bhagwanpur from Wednesday, 28 April, till 5 am, 3 May, as per ANI.
This comes even as owing to the health crisis in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 17 April, said that the ongoing Kumbh Mela should now only be “symbolic".
In a tweet, PM Modi said that he spoke to a head seer, Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha president Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, over phone and made an appeal about the gathering in the wake of the crisis.
In response, the seer tweeted, "We respect the Prime Minister's appeal. Saving lives is important. I request the people to not come for snan in large numbers, in the wake of COVID-19 situation, and follow all rules."
Due to the pandemic, the Kumbh, held every 12 years, was only a month-long. The last Kumbh was held in 2010.
Crowds at Haridwar have been thinning since last week, as key 'akhadas' of seers started pulling out of the religious event.
India has been reporting over three lakh fresh COVID-19 cases every day for the last few days.
Rising Caseload As Kumbh Continues
Prior to the event, on 31 March, the total number of active cases in the hill state were 1,863. Following the beginning of the event on 1 April, the state’s tally rose to 33,330 on 24 April.
More than 30 lakh devotees took part in the second 'Shahi Snan' on 12 April in Haridwar.
Between 10 to 14 April, 2,000 cases were reported just from the Kumbh, which had seen devotees ignoring COVID-19 protocols and participating in shahi snans in huge numbers.
Due to the huge crowds, despite the increasing caseload of the country, the administration had stated that they were not being able to implement social distancing protocols.
Over 30 Seers +ve, Top Saint Dead
Panchayati Niranjani Akhada chief Ravindra Puri tested positive for the disease hours after the group withdrew from Kumbh on Thursday, April 15. Their decision had come after over 30 sadhus, across several akhadas tested positive for COVID-19.
“There are cases in almost all the akhadas, including Niranjini, Juna and others,” Haridwar Chief Medical Officer SK Jha had told NDTV.
Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das of the Nirwani Akhada of MP passed away from COVID on 15 April.
Meanwhile, sixty-five healthcare personnel, including doctors, deployed on Kumbh duty have tested positive for COVID-19, officials said on Friday, according to a report by PTI.
Many state governments have ordered measures such as 14-day mandatory home quarantine and RT-PCR test reports for the devotees returning from the Kumbh.
(With inputs from PTI and NDTV.)
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