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‘Kumbh Mela should now only be symbolic’: PM Modi appeals Swami Avdheshanand

Devotees gather to offer prayers during the third Shahi Snan of the Kumbh Mela 2021, at Har ki Pauri Ghat in Haridwar on 14 April | Courtesy: Twitter

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 lakhs 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 two ‘shahi snan’ have taken place 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 1.54 lakh tested), even as officials fumble before the impossible task of keeping the virus out at a gathering that has seen crowds up to 32 lakh.