Make rest of Kumbh only symbolic: PM
Following a phone call from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday morning requesting only symbolic participation in the fourth and last Shahi Snan (holy dip) on April 27 in the Mahakumbh amid a surging second wave of Covid-19, the Mahamandleshwar or head of Juna Akhada, the largest of the 13 sects of seers, Swami Avdheshanand Giri declared the conclusion of the mega fair.
Two Mahamandleshwars have already succumbed to the viral disease, even as the Shahi Snans so far have seen participation by millions.
The three Bairagi Akhadas, whose Shahi Snan is scheduled for April 27 said that the Kumbh would continue but promised to follow all Covid-19 guidelines and also restrict the number of seers taking a dip.
“Religion and traditions are important but it is more important to protect the lives of people of country in this Covid-19 pandemic. Hence, our Akhada is declaring the conclusion of the Mahakumbh for all of our seers,” Giri said on Saturday afternoon.
He also urged pilgrims to come in fewer numbers.
Giri said that a large number of seers have already started to leave the Mela : “Traditionally the fourth Shahi Snan is attended mainly by the seers of three Bairagi Akhadas; for the remaining 10 Akhadas including Juna the Mahakumbh ends on the third Sahi Snan of Mesh Sankranti or Baisakhi which was on April 14 this year.”
The chief of one of the Bairagi Akhadas expressed “unhappiness over the PM calling the Juna Akhada chief and not” one of the chiefs of the three.
Mahant Baba Hatyogi of Digambar Ani Bairagi Akhada who was former national spokesperson of the governing body of all Akhadas, Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parisad,criticised the Niranjani, Atal and Juna Akhadas.
“Swami Avdeshanand Giri and Mahant Ravindra Puri of the aforementioned Akhadas are not representatives of all the Akhadas especially Baiaragi Akhadas. It would have been better if PM Modi had directly spoken to the Bairagi Akhadas which have the main stake in the last Shahi Snan. For other Akhadas, the Baisakhi Shahi Snan is the main one,” said Baba Hatyogi.
However, HT learns that home minister Amit Shah spoke with Mahant Rajendra Das, the head of the Akhil Bharatiya Sri Panch Nirmohi Akhada, one of the three, who said all Covid-19 guidelines will be followed for the Shahi Snan, and numbers kept to a minimum.
The Akhil Bhartiya Akhada Parishad also clarified that the Mahakumbh “won’t be curtailed.”
“It will be held till the completion of its designated period on April 30 as it has been held traditionally since centuries. However, amid the Covid-19 surge, we seers are committed to adhere to the Covid-19 safety norms,” said Akhada Parishad general secretary Mahant Hari Giri.
On Saturday, at least 175 people tested positive in the Mela area with the Haridwar district reporting a total of 617 new cases.
Earlier in the day, Kumbh Mela officer Deepak Rawat and Kumbh Mela force officers- inspector general Sanjay Gunjyal and SSP Janmejaya Khanduri met Mahamandleshwar Avdheshanand Giri at his ashram during which they “thanked the seers for their cooperation in the two big Shahi Snans on April 12 and 14.”