Over a hundred thousand devotees thronged Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple to take a holy dip in the Ganga river on the second Monday of ‘Sawan’ month, ignoring warnings issued by authorities to adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines. Most visitors were seen walking without face masks or maintaining social distance.
“Baba Bholenath takes care of one & all. His devotees are safe. Corona is nothing in front of the power of Baba Bholenath,” said Raju Rai, one of the devotees, as he joined loud chants of “Har Har Mahadev” heading to take a dip in Ganga. Prasad Dikshit, a priest, expressed a similar sentiment. “Baba will take care of all,” he said.
A senior official of the temple administration assured that adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour is a priority. “It is being ensured that the devotees maintain physical distance in the temple premises,” said chief executive officer of the temple, Sunil Kumar Verma.
A devotee, however, said: “The crowd was so huge that it was virtually difficult to maintain social distance as queues stretched for nearly two kilometres.”
The month-long celebration of Sawan, also known as Sharvan, is dedicated to Shiva and Monday is considered as the most auspicious day for worshipping Lord Shiva.
As per tradition, devotees collect gangajal (Ganga water) from the river and walk to the temple to offer the water to the deity.
Many devotees take a holy dip in the Ganga and collect Gangajal in pitchers and then go to the temple.
This year, owing to Covid-19, the annual kanwar yatra, which is usually carried out in the month of Sawan, has also been cancelled amid warnings over a possible third wave.
“We have appealed to the people several times to wear masks, follow physical distance and avoid visiting crowded places,” said Varanasi’s chief medical officer Dr VB Singh.