Kumbh Mela 2021: A majority of the 48.51 lakh people took part in the last two 'royal baths' (shahi snan) held on the occasion of Somwati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread its wings in the ongoing Haridwar Kumbh Mela with over 1,700 people have tested positive for the infection, including devotees and seers of different akharas (ascetic groups).
Rising cases of coronavirus infection in Uttarakhand have spared none with several seers testing positive. President of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad Narendra Giri is down with COVID and recuperating at AIIMS-Rishikesh while Mahamandaleshwar of Maha Nirwani Akhada from Madhya Pradesh Swami Kapil Dev who was suffering from COVID died at a private hospital on April 13.
The Kumbh Mela area is spread over 670 hectares covering parts of Haridwar, Tehri and Dehradun districts, including Rishikesh. A large number of people have thronged Haridwar, an important pilgrimage place for the Hindus, for Kumbh Snan, which occurs once in 12 years, following planet Jupiter's transit in Aquarius (Kumbh) sign.
A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two 'royal baths' (shahi snan) held on the occasion of Somvati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14 were seen openly violating COVID-19 norms like wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.
Medical workers conducted 2,36,751 tests over the five-day period between April 10 and 14 in the mela site. Of these, 1,701 came out positive for coronavirus.
The numbers include both RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Test reports, said Haridwar's Chief Medical Officer Shambhu Kumar Jha on April 14. More RT-PCR test reports are awaited and the trend shows that the number of infected persons in the Kumbh Mela site is likely to climb to 2,000, he said.
"Till now, 30 sadhus have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases are not in any specific akhada. There are cases in almost all the akhadas, including Niranjini, Juna and others," reported NDTV citing Jha.
In view of the deteriorating COVID-19 situation, Niranjani Akhada, one of the 13 akhadas of seers participating in the Haridwar Kumbh, has decided to opt-out of the event.
"The main Shahi Snan held on the occasion of Mesh Sankranti on April 14 is over. Many in our akhada are showing COVID-19 symptoms. So, for us the Kumbh Mela is over," Niranjani Akhada secretary Ravindra Puri said on April 14.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut has expressed apprehension that the people returning from Kumbh Mela will turn out to be potential carriers of COVID-19 infection which will "cause havoc".
Meanwhile, the Karnataka government has asked those returning from Kumbh Mela at Haridwar to get themselves quarantined and get tested for coronavirus infection.
The ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar has been shortened this year to just one month from April 1 to 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic. In normal circumstances, the event is held for nearly four months from mid-January to April.(With inputs from PTI)