Kumbh duration curtailed to 1 month for first time; pilgrims must show 'negative' COVID test report

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Dehradun, Mar 25 (PTI) The duration of Kumbh Mela in Haridwar has been curtailed to just one month for the first time in its history in view of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases and it has been made mandatory for pilgrims to have a 'negative' RT-PCR test report to attend the mega congregation.

According to a notification, the congregation on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar in Uttarakhand will take place from April 1 to 30, with three 'shahi snan' (major bathing) dates on April 12, 14 and 27.

Naga Sadhus or holy man of Niranjani Akhara take a holy dip in Ganges River on the occasion of first royal bath of Shivratri festival during Maha Kumbh Festival , in Haridwar on March 11, 2021 . (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Naga Sadhus or holy man of Niranjani Akhara take a holy dip in Ganges River on the occasion of first royal bath of Shivratri festival during Maha Kumbh Festival , in Haridwar on March 11, 2021 . (Photo by Ritesh Shukla/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Thousands of devotes take a dip in the holy river during the mela with their number increasing manifold on the days of 'shahi snan'. Authorities also expect heavy turnouts on the occasions of Chaitra Pratipada on April 13 and Ram Navami on April 21.

Held once in 12 years, the congregation usually lasts around three-and-a-half months. Its last edition was held in Haridwar from January 14 to April 28 in 2010.

According to the notification issued on Wednesday, the Kumbh Kshetra (area) covers Neergarh, Tapovan, Bitthal Ashram Marg to Muni-Ki-Reti Road and Rishi-Haridwar bypass in the north, and Narendra Nagar-Rishikesh bypass, the forest checkpost on Rishikesh-Dehradun Road, Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass, Mansa Devi, Billkeshwar Mandir, Tibri Mohand, BHEL residential buildings, Roorkee-Bahadarabad road and up to 13 km on Haridwar-Delhi road in the west.

In the south, the congregation area will extend from Bahadarabad-Haridwar bypass to Siddha Sot Setu and from Siddha Sot Setu to Neelkanth Mahadev temple in the east.

A 'negative' RT-PCR test report, not older than 72 hours before arrival, has been made mandatory for devotees by the Uttarakhand High Court. Devotees who have taken the COVID-19 vaccination will have to upload their certificate in an official portal and follow the guidelines.

After the Centre called for stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 during Kumbh, the Uttarakhand government had asked people to strictly follow COVID-19-appropriate behaviour during the congregation in view of the fresh surge in infections in various parts of the country.

In the light of guidelines issued by both the central and state governments in the past for surveillance, containment and caution, Chief Secretary Om Prakash on Monday asked the district administrations, various state and central government organisations and other stakeholders to take all necessary measures to ensure wearing of face mask, maintaining hand hygiene and social distancing by people.

These measures are also included in the national directives for COVID-19 management which have to be strictly followed throughout the state, he said.

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had recently written to the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary underlining the need for taking strict measures to check the spread of the pandemic, especially during the congregation. PTI ALM SMN SMN