Gaya, Sep 2 (PTI) The 15-day long 'Pitri Paksha Mela' scheduled to start at Gaya on Wednesday has been cancelled due to the surging COVID-19 pandemic in Bihar.
The state government has already issued a notification cancelling the fortnight-long event in view of lockdown across the state till September 6 to check spread of the virus.
Hindus from world over visit Gaya on the occasion to pay homage to their ancestors, especially through 'pind daan' or food offerings.
The annual event is organised with the 'Vishnupad Temple', having the footprints of Lord Vishnu, at its centre.
But, the city wore a deserted look during the day in the absence of the event which witnesses hectic activities in the pilgrim town during this time of the year.
No congregation or crowding is allowed at religious places including world famous Vishnupad temple during the lockdown.
Panda (priest) Mahesh Gupta and other Gayapal Pandas said they are receiving phone calls of the devotees from across the country and the world wanting to know whether or not they will be able to perform 'shradh karma' and the 'pind-daan' at Gaya for the salvation of souls of their ancestors.
'We tell them its not possible this year because of coronavirus which has gripped the state,' Gupta said.
There are around 125 families belonging to Gayapal Pandas society whose livelihood depends on the visiting pilgrims during the ritual period.
Around five to six lakh people visit Gaya every year on the occasion when a fair is also organised.
With the event not taking place this year, the local traders, hotel owners and shopkeepers selling puja items are at a loss. Every year the fair has an average turnover of Rs 200 crore.
'The hotel business has been badly affected by coronavirus pandemic. We thought we will manage to compensate the business loss to some extent when pilgrims come to Gaya during Pitri Paksha fair, but that did not happen due to lockdown, Sanjay Singh, a member of the Gaya Hotels Association, said. PTI CORR AR SNS SNS