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India's Kumbh festival attracts big crowds amid devastating second COVID wave

April 18, 2021 5:28 am

This past week, as India grapples with a devastating second wave of the coronavirus, millions of devotees have descended on the banks of the Ganges river in the northern city of Haridwar to take a dip in the water.

Hindus believe the river is holy and taking a dip in it will cleanse them of their sins and bring salvation.

But the government of Uttarakhand state, where Haridwar is located, is facing heavy criticism for allowing the Kumbh Mela festival to go ahead amid a sharply worsening Covid picture. On Thursday, India reported more than 200,000 Covid cases for the first time since the pandemic began.

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One influential Hindu congregation decided to opt out of the massive festival. “The Kumbh Mela is over for us,” Ravindra Puri, secretary of the Niranjani Akhada or congregation was quoted as saying in local media.

The decision came a day after Swami Kapil Dev, the head of another prominent congregation, died after being diagnosed with Covid-19.

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