Nearly 30 lakh people have gathered by the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar for the Maha Kumbh Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world. As the result, COVID-19 cases continue to spike. PTI has reported that over 1,700 attendees have tested positive in the past 5 days.

Haridwar Kumbh Mela commenced in Uttarakhand on April 1. The Hindu festival is celebrated approximately once in 12 years at four riverbank pilgrimage sites: the Allahabad (Ganges-Yamuna Sarasvati rivers confluence), Haridwar (Ganges), Nashik (Godavari), and Ujjain (Shipra). This year the festival shall be observed till April 30.

In the backdrop of this, images of a huge crowd near a riverbank is being shared with the claim that it is from the 2021 Kumbh Mela.

Image 1

Columnist Zainab Sikander Siddiqui tweeted the image and wrote, “The kumbh mela will never be called a covid hotspot. The devotees at the kumbh mela will never be called superspreaders. The bias cannot get more stark.” This tweet gained over 1,000 tweets.

Samajwadi Party leader Rais Shaikh posted the image and wrote, “May be they are celebrating India’s #2 position at the global #COVID index.”

Director Ram Gopal Varma had also shared the image.

Fact-check

The image in question dates back to January 2019. It was uploaded on Alarmy, a stock images website. The caption of the image reads, “Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, India. 15th Jan 2019. Allahabad: A sea of devotees gathered to take bath at Sangam on the occasion of Makar Sankranti, the first Shahi Snan, during Kumbh Mela 2019 in Allahabad (Prayagraj).” The photo credit states the image was clicked by Prabhat Kumar Verma.

Image 2

RPG Enterprises chairman Harsh Goenka tweeted another image of pilgrims and wrote, “Meanwhile at the #KumbhMela the international press is appalled at how low we wear our masks!”

TV Host Simi Garewal and author Raju Parulekar also posted the image.

Fact-check

This photograph was published on a travel website called Remote Lands in 2013. The article’s headline reads, “Maha Kumbh Mela: 100 Million Attend The World’s Largest Festival”. It was written by the website’s co-founder Jay Tyndall.

Recent images of Kumbh Mela

While the above images are old, readers should note that COVID-19 protocols are being breached in the ongoing Kumbh Mela celebrations. Getty Images and Reuters have uploaded several recent pictures that show huge crowds flouting social distancing norms and not wearing masks. The following slideshow displays some of the pictures. (1, 2, 3, 4 and 5)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On April 12, ANI posted a few images from Har Ki Pauri, Haridwar.

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About the Author

Archit is a graduate in English Literature from The MS University of Baroda. He also holds a post-graduation diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. Since then he has worked at Essel Group's English news channel at WION as a trainee journalist, at S3IDF as a fundraising & communications officer and at The Hindu as a reporter. At Alt News, he works as a fact-checking journalist.