After over 2,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in Haridwar where the Kumbh Mela is taking place, PM Modi took to Twitter and appealed devotees to observe the Kumbh Mela in a ‘symbolic’ way.

The Prime Minister in his tweet wrote- “Now that two royal baths have taken place, I appeal to everyone to keep Kumbh Mela symbolic due to the coronavirus crisis. This will give strength to India’s fight against the virus.”

Prime Minister’s appeal comes at a time where the nation has been reporting daily high. On Friday, the country reported over 2,00,000 fresh COVID-19 cases for the third day.

While the crematoriums of the country are ablaze with the pyres of bodies who lost their lives against COVID-19, thousands of pilgrims have gathered on the banks of Ganga River in Haridwar to observe the Kumbh Mela.

The gathering of so many people in such small space has been a cause of concern for Indians who’re dealing with the implications of COVID-19.

The issued has been a cause of people being critical of Modi government. Some people are blaming the Modi-led government for allowing the pilgrims to gather at Kumbh and not imposing a lockdown there like everyone else.

Some are critical of the fact that in 2020 the Muslim community were targeted to have come together in huge numbers which resulted in the numbers rising but no one is questioning the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims that are taking part in Kumbh.

Meanwhile, Swami Avdheshanand, who is one of the few religious leaders overseeing the Kumbh responded to Modi’s tweet and wrote on Twitter, “We respect PM Modi’s appeal. Saving lives is sacred. I request people to not gather for the ritual bath in large numbers and follow all Covid protocols.”

On Wednesday this week there were several reports claiming that Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP) had agreed to call off the Kumbh due to sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

However, later the officials overseeing the Kumbh dismissed all such reports and announced that the Kumbh will be observed as scheduled. Deepak Rawat, District Magistrate of Haridwar and Kumbh Mela Officer said that, “The Kumbh Mela used to begin in January, but looking at the Covid situation, the state government decided to start it in April this time. The centre’s rules said because of the situation, the duration would be reduced. I have no information of it being curtailed,”

The Kumbh Mela is a pilgrimage festival that’s celebrated every 4 years. In Kumbh Mela, hundreds and thousands of Hindu pilgrims come together and take a holy dip (shahi snaan) on 4 sacred rivers.

The Kumbh Mela is observed on the banks of the 4 sacred rivers at Haridwar, Ujjain, Nashik and Prayagraj. The site of the celebration rotates every 4 years. For example, this year, the Mela is being observed at Haridwar, meaning the next Kumbh will be observed in 2025 at Ujjain.

On April 16, 2021 India reported 2,34, 002 new COVID-19 cases taking the country’s total tally to a worrying 1,45,38,372. Meanwhile on Friday 1,338 people died in the country taking the death toll to 1,75,711.

States like Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, who have been contributing heavily to the daily active cases have already imposed different types of restrictions and curfews in the most populous cities. Cities like Mumbai, Pune, New Delhi, Bengaluru, Uttarakhand, Indore, Bhopal, Chandigarh are all under weekend curfews, weekday curfews or night curfews.