Saturday 15 January 2022
Despite 260,000 corona infections, thousands of pilgrims take a dip in the Ganges
On one of the holiest pilgrimages in Hinduism, thousands of pilgrims gather in India to take a ritual bath in the Ganges to cleanse them of their sins. Although the festival could develop into a superspreader event, a court rejects the ban on the event.
Despite a rapid increase in cases of corona infection in India, thousands of Hindus have made a pilgrimage to the Ganges to take part in the Gangasar Mela pilgrimage festival and take a ritual bath in the river. Health experts had previously advised canceling the festival. But despite the omicron wave of the corona virus, a court in Kolkata rejected a ban on the festival a few days ago. Instead, the court asked the government to warn pilgrims about the risks that exist. Most participants did not wear masks. A total of up to three million pilgrims are expected. A government official said there had been a “sea of people” since dawn. Ganges water was sprayed over the pilgrims with drones “to hold back the crowd”. However, many participants did not want to be deterred from taking a dip in the Ganges.
More than 260,000 infections in 24 hours
A police officer said it was not possible to stop the pilgrims: “They believe that God will save them and that a dip in the Ganges will cleanse them of all sins, including the virus if they are infected.” Many of the pilgrims stay for a month in what they believe to be full salvation. Despite the extremely polluted river water, Hinduism still trusts in the unbroken cleansing power of the divine course. In India, more than 260,000 corona infections and 315 deaths were registered within 24 hours. At the peak of the previous corona wave last May, India recorded more than 400,000 infections and around 4,000 deaths per day. The massive wave of infections was preceded by the huge Kumbh Mela pilgrimage festival with up to 25 million participants. In total, around 485,000 people have died in the country since the pandemic began.
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