File photo
File photo

The Covid-19 pandemic has not just inflicted innumerable sufferings on the masses, it has also not spared the dead.

For the first time in the history of Gaya, the annual ‘Pitripaksh Mela’ has been called off due to the coronavirus outbreak. The 15-day ritual of ‘pind daan’ (offering homage and food to one’s ancestors) was to start on Wednesday. Millions of people from around the world converge in the city for this event.

With Bihar reeling under a surge in Covid cases, Gaya Collector Abhisek Singh has issued orders under the Indian Penal Code, Epidemic Control Act and Disaster Management Act disallowing outsiders to enter the town. The Grand Trunk Road—NH2—that passes through Bodh Gaya too have been sealed for visitors.

As on September 2, the state had reported over 1.4 lakh cases and 722 deaths.

Officials said the decision was taken keeping in mind that it would have been nearly impossible to maintain social distancing among devotees visiting the Vishnupad temple and offering prayers in Falgu river. Another concern was that most of the devotees are in the age group of 60-65 years, said the collector.

To ensure the devotees are not disappointed, the government had asked them to do ‘pind daan’ online. However, local priests and their parent organisation Sri Vishnupad Management Committee shot down the move. Giridhari Lal Pathak of the committee said the rituals demand physical presence of people in Bodh Gaya.

According to the management committee, 1470 people, mostly NRIs and those from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, had requested for ‘e-pind daan’.

Manoj Mishra, a scholar in Sanatan philosophy, ‘pind daan’ has been commercialised by the Bihar tourism department. “Some private NGOs and self-proclaimed godmen have entered this business of Pitripaksha Mela. There are over 10,000 acharyas [priests] who help perform the rituals every year during this period. They have been rendered jobless this time,” he said.

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