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NATION                                                                       APRIL 16, 2021  |    The Indian Eye                          10

          did Kumbh Mela turn into a ‘super spreader’

                                        event amid the pandemic?

        Prime Minister appeals to make the gathering ‘symbolic’ but religious group remain divided on calling off the congregation

        Our Bureau                                                                                                    bolic” in nature after a large
        Haridwar                                                                                                      number of people at the mela,
                                                                                                                      including seers, tested  positive
                 s India grapples with                                                                                for Covid-19. The PM added
                 a devastating second                                                                                 that symbolic participation at
        Awave of the coronavi-                                                                                        Kumbh would help in the fight
        rus, millions of devotees have                                                                                against the raging virus.
        descended on the banks of the                                                                                     Taking to Twitter, the PM
        Ganges river in Haridwar to                                                                                   urged Swami Awadheshanand
        take a dip in the water. Now,                                                                                 Giri, the Mahamandaleshwar of
        the government of Uttarakhand                                                                                 Juna Akhara which is the largest
        state, where Haridwar is locat-                                                                               of the 13 akharas at Kumbh, to
        ed, is facing heavy criticism for                                                                             allow the pilgrimage to remain
        allowing the Kumbh Mela festi-                                                                                symbolic given the corona crisis.
        val to go ahead amid a sharply                                                                                    After PM’s appeal, seers
        worsening Covid picture.                                                                                      urged the pilgrims to not at-
            The ongoing Kumbh was               Devotees take a holy dip on the third 'Shahi Snan' of Kumbh Mela at    tend the next shahi snan in large
        shortened this year to just one                   Har ki Pauri, in Haridwar on Wednesday. (ANI)               numbers. PM Modi’s call comes
        month from April 1 to 30 due                                                                                  as one of the top seers Maha-
        to the pandemic. In normal cir-                                                                               mandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das
        cumstances, the event, which                                                                                  (65) of the Nirwani Akhada had
        comes once in 12 years, is held                                                                               died from Covid-19 complica-
        from mid-January to April.                                                                                    tions on Thursday. Following
            One  influential  Hindu  con-                                                                             his demise, two Sanyasi or Shai-
        gregation decided to opt out                                                                                  vite sects, Niranjani and Anand
        of  the  massive festival.  “The                                                                              Akhadas  had  announced  their
        Kumbh  Mela  is  over  for  us,”                                                                              exit from Kumbh.
        Ravindra Puri, secretary of the                                                                                   PM Modi said that all the
        Niranjani Akhada or congrega-                                                                                 saints are cooperating with the
        tion was quoted as saying in lo-                                                                              administration and expressed
        cal media. The decision came a                                                                                his gratitude to the saints for
        day after Swami Kapil Dev, the                                                                                their gesture. Uttarakhand chief
        head of another prominent con-                                                                                minister  Tirath  Singh  Rawat
        gregation, died after being diag-                                                                             also made an appeal to seers to
        nosed with Covid-19.                                                                                          cooperate  in  the  fight  against
            It’s unclear how many dev-          A Sadhvi of Niranjani Akhada takes a holy dip at Har ki Pauri during    Covid-19. Responding to PM’s
        otees at the Kumbh Mela have                         Kumbh, in Haridwar on Wednesday. (ANI)                   request,  Swami  Awadheshan-
        tested positive since the first day                                                                           and urged people to not attend
        of bathing on 11 March. But  ficials said.                               had to pull back a COVID-19  the mela in large numbers.
        Haridwar’s  chief  medical  offi-       “Our  faith  is  the  biggest  testing crew.                              Swami       Awadheshanand
        cer, Dr SK Jha, said more than  thing for us. It is because of that          “We have moved away our          further said that only one sha-
        1,600 cases had been confirmed  strong belief that so many peo- sampling team to avoid a stam- hi snan is left in which only a
        among devotees between 10  ple have come here to take a dip  pede-like situation,” said SK  few sadhus will participate. The
        and 14 April. But there are fears  in  Ganga,”  Siddharth  Chakra- Jha,  chief  medical  officer  of  Swami added that sadhus also
        that the numbers could be even  pani, a member of one of the  the northern city of Haridwar,  believe that this is the best thing
        higher, and that many of those  Kumbh Mela organizing com- where the event is being held.  to do.
        who have returned home could  mittees, told AFP news agency.             “We do, of course, expect cases          The Sanyasi seers consider
        have taken the disease with             “They  believe  that  Maa  to rise when the priests and oth- the third Shahi Snan, which was
        them across the country.             (mother) Ganga will save them  er crowd move away.”                      on April 14, the high point of
            The virus was detected  in  from this pandemic.”                         Meanwhile on Saturday,  the congregation, while to the
        the city of Haridwar, which lies        As huge crowds made their  Prime Minister Narendra Modi  Bairagi seers, Ram Navami (on
        along the river where the weeks- way towards the river on a spe- on Saturday appealed top seer  April 21) and the fourth Shahi
        long Kumbh Mela, or the pitch- cial day of bathing during the  at the Kumbh Mela to keep  Snan (on April 27) are most im-
        er festival, is being observed, of- Kumbh Mela, health authorities  the ongoing pilgrimage “sym- portant.

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