Hundreds of Hindu devotees gathered on the banks of the Ganges, Tuesday, April 13, to observe the first day of the ‘Chiatra Navratri’ festival, despite a fourth coronavirus surge.
READ MORE: Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees gathered by the Ganges River for special prayers Monday, many of them flouting social distancing practices as the coronavirus spreads in India with record speed.
The Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in Hinduism. The faithful congregate in the northern city of Haridwar and take a dip in the waters of the Ganges, which they believe will absolve them of their sins and deliver them from the cycle of birth and death.
The Kumbh Mela, which runs through April, comes during India's worst surge in new infections since the pandemic began, with a seven-day rolling average of more than 130,000 new cases per day. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients, and experts worry the worst is yet to come.
Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say the festival has been allowed at a time when infections are skyrocketing because the government isn't willing to anger Hindus, who are the party's biggest supporters.