While political rallies have been banned in Punjab due to the pandemic, there is no restriction for those converging for the religious event

Thousands of devotees gathered at Muktsar on Friday to commemorate the annual Maghi Mela amid the third Covid wave.

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Every year, a three-day festival is organised in the memory of the 40 ‘muktas (the redeemed ones)’, who sacrificed their lives fighting the Mughals in the last battle of Guru Gobind Singh, the 10th Sikh master, in 1705.

Since early on Friday, people started arriving at Muktsar, 60km from Bathinda, for a ritual bath at the historic Tuti Gandi Sahib gurdwara.

There is no restriction for those converging for the religious event. While political rallies have been banned due to the pandemic, religious processions or gatherings have not been barred.

According to the information, Covid-19 guidelines were not followed during the mela. Social distancing norms were not enforced and devotees were seen without masks in and around the shrine. People took a dip in the holy sarovar in large numbers.

Devotees in queue for darshan at the sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple on Friday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Muktsar civil surgeon Dr Ranju Singla said the health department is keeping its fingers crossed as the town is seeing a rush of pilgrims since Thursday even as Covid cases are on the rise in Punjab.

Special teams have been distributing masks to devotees but people in a festive mood have been ignoring appeals to maintain distancing, Dr Singla said.

“Seven vaccination-cum-screening camps have been set up but there are hardly any takers. On Thursday, about 100 people took the vaccine but today nobody has turned up,” the civil surgeon said.

In view of the rush at the mela, the Muktsar district administration declared a holiday in all public offices on Friday.

All liquor vends and shops selling meat will remain closed in the Muktsar municipal limits till Friday midnight.

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