Warning to the wind in the face of rising coronavirus cases, thousands of seers gathered at Har ki Pairi in Haridwar on Wednesday to take a dip in the Ganges during the third Shahi Snan of Kumbh Mela. Shahi Snan marked Mesh Sankranti and Baisakhi. With large numbers of worshipers taking the holy bath, Covid protocols like social distancing seemed almost impossible. By noon, between eight and ten Lakh people had bathed in the Ganges, said Uttarakhand Police Chief Ashok Kumar, who oversaw the arrangements in Haridwar.
According to the senior officer, the crowds at the Ganga ghats were much smaller than expected during the third shahi snan – considered the most important. He attributed this to the Covid restrictions in place. Police officers were seen distributing masks to residents of the Kumbh Mela area.
Social distancing standards have been openly violated by psychics and their supporters in Har ki Pairi. No mask was worn by many of them. The seers of the akhadas took the bath with their venerated deities in palanquins at Har Ki Pairi. Common devout lakhs bathed in the other ghats of Haridwar and Rishikesh.
– ANI (@ANI) April 14, 2021
The seers and Naga sanyasis of Niranjani Akhada, led by Acharya Kailashan and Giri, were the first to bathe in the river with seers Anand Akhada. They were followed by the Joona Akhada, who has the largest number of sadhus led by Swami Avadheshanand. The seers Mahanirvani Akhada came next. The lots followed one another according to the allocated time slots.
All akhadas must finish diving at Har Ki Pairi before sunset, so time management is very important, said Inspector General Mela Sanjay Gunjyal. The Shahi Snans and the Kumb Mela have raised concerns about their role in possibly adding to the increase in coronavirus cases in the country.
Uttarakhand recorded its highest one-day peak of Covid-19 cases on Tuesday with 1,925 people testing positive. Dehradun with 775 cases and Haridwar with 594 were the biggest contributors to the day’s caseload.
During the first hours of the third Shahi Snan, the police chief said, there was no mess anywhere. He said this was due to the expansion of infrastructure in Haridwar over the past few months, including the addition of more ghats, which has helped better crowd management.