In the name of religion?

Does God approve of superstition?

India gives go ahead for Kumbh Mela despite Covid

The BBC has reported that countless pilgrims have gathered on the banks of India’s Ganges river at the start of the Kumbh Mela, billed as the world’s largest human gathering. That makes mincemeat of any semblance of rationalism and equals India’s infamous lockdown, where millions had to march homewards on foot.

An auspicious event in Hinduism may turn nightmarish during the coronavirus pandemic.

Who will wash away sins, if there is another flare-up and mega-spread of Covid?

Officials claim that they are following pandemic guidelines, but bathers are not wearing masks. The crowded ghats and the polluted waters due to the gathering impose an additional risk in view of the ongoing cold wave. Only the US has more Covid cases than India.

However, India claims lower death rates than many nations and is not in lockdown.

Many Hindus believe bathing will help them attain “moksha”, setting them free from the cycle of birth and death.

According to news channel NDTV, pilgrims started arriving at Har ki Paudi, a famous bank of the river Ganges in Haridwar, at 0300 local time and bathing started an hour later. The rest of the Indian media, normally vociferous on anything and everything, is quietly avoiding the discussion in view of its thinly veiled loyalty to Hindutva – the Holy grail of the ruling BJP.

The event normally attracts tens of thousands, but this time the authorities are discouraging large crowds because of the risks due to Covid-19.

District officials have warned people to come only after they’ve tested negative, wear masks at all times and maintain social distancing but local journalists say few were following these rules.

The cold, the size of the crowd, the relatively old age of participants and the fact that pilgrims come from and return to far-flung areas of India implies that this may prove to be a deadly plunge for India. The UK strain has reportedly reached India, already.

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