The Uttarakhand government has organised the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar at a time when then entire country is reeling under the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic. On Monday, when second ‘Shahi Snan’ or royal bath took place, a total of 31 lakh devotees took a holy dip in river Ganga at Har ki Pauri.
Marching barefoot to their destination, the seers from various akharas also took the holy dip. They were showered with flower petals from helicopters arranged by the Uttarakhand government.
Amid concerns that the Kumbh Mela could turn into a superspreader event, chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat said last week that “the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus”.
The first Shahi Snan was held on March 11 on the occasion of Mahashivratri.
Here’s everything you need to know about the ongoing Kumbh Mela:
The ‘Shahi Snan’ was organised on the occasion of Somvati Amavasya, an auspicious day for Hindus. “Till 6 pm today, a total of 31 lakh devotees have taken ‘snan’ in and around the Kumbh Mela area,” Kumbh Mela Police Control Room announced on Monday evening.
Masks were not worn by a large number of people who also did not follow social distancing. Mela Inspector General Sanjay Gunjyal said 100 per cent compliance with Covid-19 norms was not possible with such a large crowd of seers converging on the ghats.
Twenty-six people tested positive in the 9,678 random coronavirus tests conducted in the mela area on Monday. According to the tally released by state health department in the evening, 408 fresh cases of Covid-19 were detected during the past 24 hours across Haridwar district.
Har ki Pauri, considered the holiest of the river banks, was reserved for the akhadas from 7am onwards. Other devotees took the dip at the other ghats of the Ganga.
Former King of Nepal Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, on his maiden visit to Haridwar, was among the devotees who took a bath in the river.
The duration of the Kumbh Mela has been limited to just one month due to rising cases of Covid-19. The authorities have made negative RT-PCR report after an order from the Uttarakhad high court. The report should not be older than 72 hours.
Other norms like wearing masks and frequently sanitising hands have also been made mandatory, but many people were violating these in the mela area. Many pilgrims squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of the Ganga jostling for a dip. Gunjyal said it is practically not possible to issue challans due to huge crowd.
More than 20,000 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed to keep an eye over the mela area spread over 600 hectares.
Uttarakhand Police chief Ashok Kumar said that the footfall is 50 per cent less than what the authorities were expecting this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Uttarakhand reported 1,333 new Covid-19 cases were reported on Sunday taking the total number of the cases in the state to 1,08,812. The active cases in the state now stand at 7,323.
(With inputs from agencies)