Huge crowds of several million people gathered on Monday at the Kumbh Mela, religious festival, world’s largest religious gathering, in Haridwar city in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand, India. As the rules request, they need to take a dip in the Ganges river, which is believed t will cleanse them of their sins and bring salvation. The Kumbh Mela takes place every 12 years and the venue is chosen from amongst four cities, including Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. By noon more than 2.1 million devotees had bathed in the river, with many more expected to follow suit. It was very difficult to ensure social distancing on the river banks. India India consistently reported more than 100,000 Covid infections cases daily in the past few weeks.
On Monday, it had more than 168,000 new cases. Health experts had appealed for the Kumbh Mela festival to be cancelled. The government had earlier said that only people with Covid negative reports would be allowed at the festival and strict measures like social distancing would be followed, but it was only a dream. The festival is traditionally credited to the 8th-century Hindu philosopher and saint Adi Shankara, as a part of his efforts to start major Hindu gatherings for philosophical discussions and debates along with Hindu monasteries across the Indian subcontinent. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 60 million Hindus gathered for the Kumbh Mela in 2001.