Tens of thousands of devotees took a holy dip in the Ganga in Prayagraj on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Friday, braving severe cold and belittling the coronavirus threat.
Devotees have been flocking the Magh Mela area since morning and around 6.5 lakh people, including children and the elderly, had taken bath in the river by 6 pm, an official of the annual religious event said.
Crowds of devotees were seen at ghats in Varanasi too.
Praygraj District Magistrate Sanjay Kumar Khatri, Mela adhikari Sheshmani Pandey and Senior Superintendent of Police Ajay Kumar visited the VIP Ghat, Sangam Nose, Arail Ghat and other major ghats.
According to the mela administration, masks were distributed to 65,000 devotees in the area. Thermal screening of devotees was conducted at all 16 entrances and parking areas, a mela official said.
Meanwhile, a fire broke out at a tent located in Arail area in Magh Mela.
The fire, triggered by a leaking gas cylinder, was brought under control immediately, preventing any loss of life or injury to anyone, Fire officer Ram Kumar Rawat of Arail unit of the fire brigade said.
Holding the Mela amid rising number of coronavirus cases has emerged as a major challenge before the fair administration. In fact, many policemen on duty were found infected with COVID-19 even before the start of the fair.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has appealed to the people of the state in view of the surge in coronavirus cases that only those who have taken both doses of the vaccine and are completely healthy should come to bathe in the Magh Mela.
He has directed the Prayagraj administration to ensure that the COVID-19 protocol is followed.
The district administration has already announced that it will be mandatory for visitors to the fair area to come with a negative RT-PCR report, not older than 48 hours. They are also expected to mandatorily carry certificates of both doses of vaccination and maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour.
The Mela administration has divided the fair area into five sectors. Five pontoon bridges have been erected so that devotees staying in more than 3,200 institutions and camps in all these sectors can have an easy access to 12 bathing ghats in the Mela area.
Two 50-bed hospitals, named Ganga and Triveni, 12 health camps and 10 treatment centres have been prepared to provide health facilities to the Kalpavas, devotees and saints visiting the Mela area.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)