Uttarakhand Government on Tuesday decided to cancel Kanwar Yatra this year, in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We discussed with higher officials and with officials from neighbouring states and decided that we will not hold Kanwar Yatra this time, " said Uttarakhand chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami.
"A variant has been found in Gadarpur so we don't want to make Haridwar the center of COVID," he added.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had also written to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami to disallow the Kanwar Yatra this year in light of the possible third COVID-19 wave. In the letter, IMA Uttarakhand State Secretary Dr Ajay Khanna expressed concerns about the crowds that may gather for the annual pilgrimage and urged Dhami not to allow devotees from outside to enter the state for the Yatra.
For the uninitiated, the 'Kanwar Yatra' is an annual pilgrimage of Lord Shiva's devotees. Every year during the Hindu calendar month of 'Saavan', thousands of devotees from across India undertake the pilgrimage. It was cancelled last year due to the rising COVID-19 cases.
Regarding the final decision whether it will be conducted or not, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Friday said that the Kanwar Yatra is not a one-state affair and the state government will take the decision after discussing it with other states, including Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
For the annual Yatra, pilgrims visit Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch the water from the river Ganga. Later, the holy water is dispensed as offerings to Lord Shiva in temples.
Earlier in March, another religious pilgrimage, the Kumbh Mela, was curtailed in light of rising COVID-19 cases.
However, Uttar Pradesh's Yogi government has given a green signal to the Kanwar Yatra with standard COVID-19 precautions. They have asked the pilgrims to follow proper safety guidelines.
The Kanwar Yatra was cancelled in 2020 also due to increasing coronavirus cases.
(With agency inputs)