Spiritual Jab: Amid Covid Fear, 2.8 Million Take Holy Dip in Haridwar Kumbh

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Amid alarming rise in cases of Covid-19 across the country, more than 27 lakh pilgrims and seers took dip in the Ganga River on the occasion of 'Shahi Snan' on Monday as part of the ongoing Haridwar Kumbh fair. According to officials, 27.79 lakh took dip at Haridwar Kumbh till 4pm. Being Shahi Snan, the Naga seers associated with the 13 Akharas or Hindu monasteries, took turns to take bath in the Ganga. For Akharas, 'Shahi Snan' is considered a major event. The 13 Akharas were allotted fixed time to take a dip at the river flowing at Har-Ki-Pauri sanctum sanctorum. The Niranjani Akhara was first to visit Har-ki-Pauri and Nirmal Akhara allotted the last slot at 5 pm.

Earlier in the morning, other than seers, lakhs of pilgrims took a dip in the Ganga River at Har-Ki-Pauri. During the bath time fixed for Akharas, common pilgrims were not permitted to visit the ghat meant for Akharas.

Despite the Covid-19 regulations, a large number of seers and pilgrims were seen without masks. The crowd moved shoulder to shoulder without any social distancing, throwing caution to air. The police said it was not practical to implement social distancing at times when there is such huge rush at Ganga ghats (banks).

Inspector General (Kumbh) Sanjay Gunjiyal said social distancing at ghats could lead to stampede-like situation, therefore, distancing was not enforced. Besides social distancing, police went 'soft' on those not sporting masks. Majority of the seers came in huge processions without wearing masks.

The Covid numbers have witnessed a surge in Uttarakhand in the last two weeks with Dehradun and Haridwar reporting maximum cases. On Sunday, Haridwar reported 386 fresh cases. Those who tested positive for Coronavirus, included chief of Akhara Parishad Narendra Giri and six other seers of Niranjani and Juna Akhara.

The next two Shahi Snans are slated on April 15 and April 27. The administration is expecting a rush on the coming dates as well. The police, however, added owing to the condition for bringing the Covid negative report for the pilgrims coming from 12 States, the number of visitors comparatively went down this year.

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