Huge festival cleared for Bengal by court despite wave of Covid

Hundreds of thousands of people pray, bathe and visit old temples in the area


Calcutta’s High Court today rejected an offer to quash Bengal’s Ganga Sagar Mela amid fears the large gathering could spread coronavirus infections as the country experiences an increase in cases caused by Omicron.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected at the annual religious holiday, which begins tomorrow on an island where the Ganges enters the Bay of Bengal.

It marks the harvest season and will continue until the next weekend before the new moon on January 17th.

Kolkata-based doctor Avinandan Mondal has requested a court order to ban the festival due to coronavirus concerns as infection rates rise in a country that saw a deadly wave last year.

New cases have surpassed 1,000,000 today and authorities in several mega-cities have imposed restrictions as they seek to slow the spread of the virus.

But the Calcutta High Court rejected the request, instead asking the state government – which estimated attendance at no more than 5,000,000 and supported the rally – to run advertisements warning people of the risks of going there. to assist.

“People from all over the country will attend the religious holiday and take a holy bath,” environmentalist Subhash Dutta told AFP.

“They can be carriers of variant viruses and this religious holiday could end up being the biggest super-spread in the next few days,” he added.

The site of Sagar Island is one of the holiest places for Hindus and it welcomes millions of pilgrims every year.

People travel by train and bus, take hikes and finally take boats to reach the sacred island to offer prayers, bathe and visit ancient temples in the area.

Last year’s deadly wave of infections in the country was preceded by the huge Kumbh Mela festival which took place every 12 years, when millions of Hindus from across the country descended on the banks of the Ganges. in Haridwar.

The pilgrimage saw people walking in the morning on the revered river without masks and little concern for social distancing.

The mass rally was blamed for a significant increase in infections for weeks as people returned to remote towns and villages across the country.

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