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In pictures: Coronavirus fails to deter India's massive Ganges pilgrimage

“The pandemic is a bit of a worry, but we are taking all precautions,” says organiser.
Updated 14 Jan, 2021 11:17pm

Hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims descended on the banks of the Ganges river on Thursday, trusting in faith rather than masks to shield them against the coronavirus pandemic during the giant Kumbh Mela festival.

Up to one million people were expected in the city of Haridwar for the first day of the pilgrimage, even though India has the world's second-highest number of cases, more than 10 million, and has recorded more than 150,000 deaths.

Most of the hordes, aged between three and over 80, who walked into the revered but freezing river in the morning mist did not have masks and social distancing was an organisational nightmare.

“The pandemic is a bit of a worry, but we are taking all precautions,” said organiser Siddharth Chakrapani. “I'm sure Maa Ganga will take care of their safety,” he added, referring to the Hindu goddess of forgiveness and purification.

“Yes, there is a pandemic but people will come because of tradition. People are coming from very far away,” said 53-year-old Inderaj Singh.

A general view shows Hindu devotees taking a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP
A general view shows Hindu devotees taking a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP

Hindu devotees crowd the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers to take a ritualistic bath during Makar Sankranti festival in Prayagraj, India, Thursday. — AP
Hindu devotees crowd the confluence of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers to take a ritualistic bath during Makar Sankranti festival in Prayagraj, India, Thursday. — AP

Hindu pilgrims offer prayers at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island south of Kolkata on January 14. — AFP
Hindu pilgrims offer prayers at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island south of Kolkata on January 14. — AFP

A volunteer (R) checks the temperature of devotees who arrive to take a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP
A volunteer (R) checks the temperature of devotees who arrive to take a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP

A Hindu pilgrim holds a picture of herself with her late husband as she takes a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata. — AFP
A Hindu pilgrim holds a picture of herself with her late husband as she takes a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata. — AFP

Hindu devotees take a holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad on January 14. — AFP
Hindu devotees take a holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad on January 14. — AFP

A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man performs a ritual as he arrives to take a holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Allahabad on January 14, — AFP
A Sadhu or a Hindu holy man performs a ritual as he arrives to take a holy dip at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti in Allahabad on January 14, — AFP

Members of local village panchayat wearing face shields and masks inspect the sanitisation on the beach as a preventive measure against Covid-19 at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata. — AFP
Members of local village panchayat wearing face shields and masks inspect the sanitisation on the beach as a preventive measure against Covid-19 at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal at Sagar Island, south of Kolkata. — AFP

Hindu devotees walk across a newly constructed temporary pontoon bridge on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad on January 14. — AFP
Hindu devotees walk across a newly constructed temporary pontoon bridge on the banks of Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad on January 14. — AFP

Hindu devotees gather to take a holy dip in the waters of river Ganges to mark “Makar Sankranti” festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Haridwar, India, January 14. — Reuters
Hindu devotees gather to take a holy dip in the waters of river Ganges to mark “Makar Sankranti” festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease, in Haridwar, India, January 14. — Reuters

Hindu pilgrims pray after taking a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island, around 150km south of Kolkata on January 14. — AFP
Hindu pilgrims pray after taking a holy dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island, around 150km south of Kolkata on January 14. — AFP

Facemasks of Hindu pilgrims kept for drying are pictured at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island south of Kolkata. — AFP
Facemasks of Hindu pilgrims kept for drying are pictured at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal during the Gangasagar Mela on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, at Sagar Island south of Kolkata. — AFP

Hindu devotees take a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP
Hindu devotees take a holy dip in the waters of the River Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP

A Hindu devotee offers prayers as he takes a holy dip in the waters of river Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP
A Hindu devotee offers prayers as he takes a holy dip in the waters of river Ganges during Makar Sankranti, on the first day of the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar on January 14. — AFP

Hindu devotees crowd the banks of Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad. — AFP
Hindu devotees crowd the banks of Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, in Allahabad. — AFP


Hindu devotees crowd the banks of Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, a day considered to be of great religious significance in Hindu mythology, during the annual 'Magh Mela' festival in Allahabad, India on January 14. — AFP