Kumbh to be Suspended After Appeal by the Prime Minister

NEW DELHI, INDIA, April 17, 2021 (PTI): Amid nationwide concern over the large gatherings seen during the Kumbh Mela, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed that the mela should now be only “symbolic” as it will help strengthen the country’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

In a tweet, the Prime Minister said he spoke to top seer, Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha president Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj, over the phone and made an appeal about the religious gathering that has so far attracted hundreds and thousands of devotees. Modi also enquired about the health of saints, many of whom have contracted the infection, and conveyed his appreciation for their cooperation with the local administration.

“I prayed that the two shahi snan (royal baths) that have already taken place [are sufficient] and Kumbh participation should now be kept symbolic. This will boost the fight against this crisis,” the Prime Minister tweeted in Hindi.

Responding to Modi’s appeal, Avdheshanand urged people not to come in large numbers to the Kumbh Mela to bathe due to the Covid-19 situation, and to follow the rules. “Saving one’s and other’s lives is sacred,” he added.

The statement comes after the death of the head of the Maha Nirvani Akhada from Madhya Pradesh, who had arrived for the Kumbh and tested positive for the coronavirus. At least 59 saints have tested positive so far, including the president of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad, apart from more than 200 pilgrims (of 154,000 tested, a rate of 1/10 of 1%), even as officials fumble before the impossible task of keeping the virus out at a gathering that has seen crowds up to 3.2 million.