Mega festivals like MahaKumbh, a largest mass congregation, facilitated the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans and endangered animals via contaminated water

Arbind Kumar Patel, Santanu Mukherjee*, Mats Leifels, Rohit Gautam, Himanshu Kaushik, Saloni Sharma, Om Kumar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

9 Citations (Scopus)


Our surrounding environment has been influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The second wave of COVID-19 in India has proven to be more devastating and aggressive than the first wave of the pandemic, which led to recognizing India as one of the world's topmost worst-hit nations considering >4000 fatalities reported in a single day in May 2021. Such “resurgence and acceleration” of COVID-19 transmission has been fuelled by the MahaKumbh festival and political mass gathering (elections rallies) events, where the COVID-19 protocols have been ignored by millions of pilgrims/followers. The present review discusses only the consequences of this year's MahaKumbh festivals, the largest religious mass gathering on earth, which was held during the COVID-19 pandemic in India, and its impact on both the spread of SARS-CoV-2 among participants and their families and its influence on the quality of the river Ganga. This article tries to give readers outside of India an overview of how much impact of any such single large gathering of any relgion in any part of the world can drive coronavirus infections and effectively commence the second/third wave outbreak with this case study. Furthermore, the religious large scale celebration are widely accepted through out the world that have played a significant role in the spread of the pandemic into remote villages and towns all over the subcontinent/world, thus affecting many areas with insufficient healthcare facilities that have been relatively spared. This review also highlights the potential risk of transmission from infected humans into the aquatic environment of the river Ganga. Besides the obvious relevance of SARS-CoV-2, a large variety of other water-related disease vectors (bacteria, viruses, and protozoa) stemming from visitors to the religious congregation were introduced into the upstream regions of the Ganga river. Their sheer number is assumed to have had a severe influence on its delicate ecosystem, including endangered mammals such as the river Dolphins. The detailed epidemiological and clinical study on transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 is the need of the hour to understand the pathogenesis of RNA virus infection and prevent the massive spreading of such infectious respiratory diseases. An interdisciplinary approach, rooted in evidence-based efficient learning, contextual strategies, and a streamlined unified approach should be adopted to help in the development of a proactive prevention model during future MahaKumbh festival (and similar religious gatherings) instead of just “picking up the pieces” in a conventional post-event model.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113836
Pages (from-to)113836
JournalInternational Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Dolphins
  • Ganga
  • MahaKumbh
  • Prevention mode
  • SARS-COV-2
  • Second wave
  • Humans
  • India
  • Water Pollution
  • Holidays
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Animals
  • Rivers/microbiology
  • COVID-19/transmission
  • Endangered Species
  • Water Microbiology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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