Niranjani Akhada, one of the 13 akhadas of seers participating in the Kumbh Mela, has opted out of the event due to the increasing COVID-19 cases. “The main Shahi Snan held on the occasion of Mesh Sankranti on April 14 is over. Many in our akhada are showing COVID-19 symptoms. So, for us the Kumbh Mela is over,” Niranjani Akhada secretary Ravindra Puri said on Thursday. Niranjani Akhada is reportedly one of the largest akhadas. The rising cases of coronavirus infection in Uttarakhand saw several seers testing positive. From April 10 to 14, over 1,700 people tested positive in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area confirming fears that one of the world’s largest religious gatherings may contribute further to the rapid rise in coronavirus cases. The Kumbh Mela area is spread over 670 hectares, covering parts of Haridwar, Tehri and Dehradun districts, including Rishikesh. A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two ‘royal baths’ (Shahi Snan) held on the occasion of Somvati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14 were seen openly violating COVID-19 norms and not wearing face masks or maintaining physical distance. Despite their best efforts, the police could not impose the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the seers of akhadas and the ascetics thronging the Har Ki Pauri ghat on the two major bathing days. Meanwhile, the head of the Maha Nirvani Akhara from Madhya Pradesh, Swami Kapil Dev, who was under treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital passed away on Thursday. The akhara’s Mahamandaleshwar, who had come to attend the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, was admitted to the city’s Kailash Hospital after his RT-PCR test result showed he was positive, Haridwar’s Chief Medical Officer SK Jha said. Medical workers conducted 2,36,751 tests over the five-day period at the mela site. Out of these, 1,701 tested positive for coronavirus. Meanwhile, Uttarakhand on Thursday recorded its highest single-day spike in COVID-19 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic, with 2,220 people testing positive. The ongoing Kumbh Mela has been shortened this year to just one month from April 1 to 30 due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, the event, which occurs once in 12 years, is held for nearly four months from mid-January to April.