New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Swami Avdheshanand Giri, the chief of Juna Akhara, on Saturday evening called off the month-long mega festival of Kumbh in Haridwar in wake of the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the country.

"Our first priority is the protection of the people of India (against Covid). In view of the coronavirus pandemic, we have performed the visarjan of all Gods. This is the end of Kumbh for Juna Akhara," he said in a Tweet in Hindi.

This comes hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested Swami Giri to keep the participation in Kumbh symbolic due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Spoke to Swami Avdheshanand Giri ji on the phone today to know about the health of all the saints. All the saints are giving all kinds of support to the administration. I thanked them for this," PM Modi said in a tweet in Hindi.

"Two Shahi snans have taken place. I have requested that the Kumbh be kept symbolic due to the Corona crisis. This will strengthen the fight against this crisis," he added.

The Kumbh Mela 2021 has been at the centre of controversy as experts fear that it may become a hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic with lakhs of devotees attending the event. So far, more than 1,700 people in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area have tested positive for coronavirus.

A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two royal baths (shahi snan) held on the occasion of Somwati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14 were seen openly violating COVID-19 norms like wearing of face masks and social distancing.

President of Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Naredra Giri was admitted to AIIMS, Rishikesh after testing positive for the disease last week.

Mahamandaleshwar of Maha Nirvani Akhara from Madhya Pradesh, Swami Kapil Dev, who was under treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital here, died on April 13.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma