Haridwar: Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed that Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand’s Haridwar “should only be symbolic” amid an unprecedented increase in coronavirus cases across the country, Swami Avdheshanand Giri of Juna Akhara – one of the top seers in the country – announced an early end to the month-long mega festival.
“Our first priority is the protection of the people of India (against Covid). In view of the coronavirus pandemic, we have performed the visarjan of all Gods. This is the end of Kumbh for Juna Akhara,” he tweeted in Hindi.
भारत की जनता व उसकी जीवन रक्षा हमारी पहली प्राथमिकता है। #कोरोना महामारी के बढ़ते प्रकोप को देखते हुए हमने विधिवत कुम्भ के आवाहित समस्त देवताओं का विसर्जन कर दिया है। #जूनाअखाड़ा की ओर से यह कुम्भ का विधिवत विसर्जन-समापन है।@narendramodi @AmitShah@ANI @z_achryan @TIRATHSRAWAT
— Swami Avdheshanand (@AvdheshanandG) April 17, 2021
The seer, in a video message, appealed to other seers to heed the Prime Minister’s advice and only take symbolic part in the remaining two shahi snan or royal baths.
Thousands of people attended the Kumbh Mela that began on April 1 at a time the country has been logging over a lakh daily coronavirus cases consistently, triggering concerns that the religious congregation could make the Covid situation worse.
Earlier this week, a top seer died because of COVID-19 and many others tested positive for the virus after attending the festival, which was scheduled to end on April 30.
This morning, PM Modi spoke to Swami Avdheshanand Giri over the phone and made the appeal.
“I appealed that two ”shahi snan” (royal baths) have taken place and Kumbh (participation) should now be kept symbolic. This will give a boost to the fight against this crisis,” PM Modi tweeted in Hindi.
Responding to PM Modi’s tweet, Swami Avdheshanand had replied: “We respect PM Modi’s appeal. Saving lives is sacred. I request people to not gather for the ritual bath in large numbers and follow all Covid protocols.”
Before the start of the event, there were concerns that people coming in from several parts of the country amid the pandemic and then returning to their native places could turn Kumbh Mela into a super spreader event.
The Uttarakhand government, however, had defended the festival, saying Covid guidelines would be followed.
Visuals showed hundreds of devotees huddled together in cramped spaces as they took the holy dip into the river Ganga.
Earlier this week, reports that the akharas- which wield enormous power and influence – had agreed to call off the Kumbh in the face of mounting health concerns were quickly dismissed. Officials insisted no talks had taken place, and that the Kumbh would continue as scheduled.
India has been witnessing a massive surge in coronavirus cases for the last few weeks. This morning, 2,34,692 fresh COVID-19 cases were reported in the biggest daily spike so far.