Joona Akhara seer appeals to people to attend Kumbh in limited numbers

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Dehradun, Apr 17 (PTI) Joona Akhara Mahamandaleshwar Swami Avadheshanand Giri on Saturday appealed to people to attend the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in limited numbers in view of the surge in coronavirus cases.

Responding to an appeal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to keep the participation in Kumbh symbolic, Giri said, 'Faith is a big thing, but human lives are far more important.' 'We must all realise that the strain of coronavirus was not as aggressive or fatal earlier as it is at present. So my appeal to the emotional devotees is that they should attend the Kumbh fair in limited numbers,' he told reporters in Haridwar.

He also appealed to seers to keep their participation in the event symbolic in order to save others' lives.

Swami Avadheshanand Giri especially advised elderly people, pregnant women and children to avoid coming to the fair and stay safe.

He, however, made it clear that he was not announcing the end of the event.

'I am not announcing the end of Kumbh. All I am saying is Kumbh is already towards its fag end, with the two major ‘shahi snan’ being over. One ‘shahi snan’ remains in which traditionally only Bairagi seers participate. Others have only symbolic representation.

“The Bairagi seers must have their shahi snan. The administration is committed to organise it. But my personal appeal is things should be kept limited and symbolic for the sake of humanity,' the seer noted.

Giri also defended Niranjani Akhara which had recently announced that the event was over for them.

'... they perhaps meant to say that the two major ‘shahi snan’ had been concluded and the one that remains is attended mostly by Bairagi seers with only a symbolic representation by other akharas,” he said.

The Joona Akhara Mahamandaleshwar also asserted that seers of his Akhara are following all COVID-19 norms.

'The number of seers from our Akhara undergoing COVID-19 test is the highest, out of which, only one or two have tested positive and the rest are all negative. I have had myself tested for COVID-19 12 times,' he said.

Hundreds of people, including a number of seers, have tested positive for the highly contagious infection in the Kumbh Mela since the start of the fair on April 1.

President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Naredra Giri was admitted to AIIMS, Rishikesh after testing positive for the disease last week. Mahamandaleshwar of Maha Nirvani Akhara from Madhya Pradesh, Swami Kapil Dev, who was under treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital here, died on April 13.

PTI ALM SRY