Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday the ongoing Kumbh in Haridwar should now have symbolic participation due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Modi tweeted that he spoke to Swami Avdheshanand Giri of Juna Akhara over telephone and inquired about the health of saints, many of whom have contracted the infection, and also conveyed his appreciation for their cooperation with the local administration.
"I prayed that two 'shahi snans' have taken place and Kumbh (participation) should now be kept symbolic. This will boost the fight against this crisis," the prime minister tweeted in Hindi.
Responding to Modi's call, Avdheshanand urged people to not come to the Kumbh mela for bathing in large numbers due to the COVID-19 situation and to follow the rules.
Saving one's and other's lives is sacred, he added.
The ongoing Kumbh, which has seen people from different parts of the country attending the auspicious event in large numbers, has drawn flak from various quarters as the number of COVID-19 cases has zoomed at a rapid pace in the past few weeks. The event has also reported the coronavirus cases in large numbers.
In the past week, nearly 2,000 devotees tested positive at the Kumbh. On Thursday, Mahamandaleshwar Kapil Dev Das of the Nirwani Akhara died due to COVID-19 complications at the Maha Kumbh area, reported The Times of India.
The ongoing Kumbh has already been shortened this year to just one month from 1 to 30 April due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, the event, which comes once in 12 years, is held from mid January to April.
With inputs from PTI