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Kumbh Mela 2021: India holds world’s largest human gathering amid COVID-19 concerns

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Cover image via AFP/ Twitter

Dehradun (Uttarakhand) [India]: Marking the beginning of the auspicious Kumbh Mela on Thursday, over 7 lakh devotees took a holy dip in the bank of river Ganga in Haridwar, said the Information Department of the Uttarakhand government.

Every 12-years-on, millions will gather on the river-confluence, to take the eternal dip of purity that will wash-off their sins and emancipate them from the vicious cycle of life and death.

This year, already as many as 7,11,000 devotees have performed rituals at Har ki Pairi during the time of aarti.

The historic and ancient Hindu festival is billed as the world’s largest human gathering on the bank of three rivers — the Ganga, Yamuna, and the mythical Sarasvati.

In 2008, an estimated 120 million people gathered on the confluence of the three rivers, making the event observable even from space. The BBC, covering the Kumbh Mela in 2001 wrote: “What is probably the largest human gathering in history has been imaged from space.”

Even as India reels from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it did not keep the thousands from attending the inaugural day of the month-long festival. The government said that all COVID-19 health protocols were followed on the first day of the Kumbh and 974 people were fined for flouting the guidelines.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims have descended on the banks of the Ganges river trusting in faith rather than masks to shield them against the coronavirus pandemic during the giant Kumbh Mela festivalhttps://t.co/NcC3yysrQZ

📸 Dibyangshu Sarkar pic.twitter.com/KyY5HmaGbR

— AFP News Agency (@AFP) January 14, 2021

“The soldiers of Uttarakhand’s Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), Pradeshik Armed Constabulary (PAC) and Central Paramilitary Force (CPF) and five teams of the Bomb Disposal Squad are deployed in Haridwar for the safety of devotees during the Kumbh Mela 2021,” the state government said.

In addition to the radio communication system, concerned authorities have installed over 1,000 CCTV cameras to keep a strict vigil on the entire fair.

Due to the pandemic, this year the Kumbh Mela will be held for 48 days in Haridwar instead of three-and-a-half months. The Maha Kumbh is celebrated in a cycle of 12 years at four river-bank pilgrimage sites. The fair will conclude on April 27.

Drops of the eternal nectar fell from the urn (Kumbh) of Lord Vishnu while in a fight with demons. The drops fell which is now the conjuncture of the three rivers, as the tradition goes.

with agency inputs

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