Kathmandu, Sep 3 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of Buddhists and Hindu devotees on Thursday violated Covid-19 related restrictions and gathered to hold a traditional procession dedicated to the rain god in Nepal, leading to violent clashes with the polices.
The disturbances began around midday in the locality of Pulchowk, a few kilometers away from Kathmandu, after around 700 people gathered to pull a 15-meters long chariot carrying the image of Rato Machhindranath, the god of rain, and pray for a bountiful monsoon.
The devotees had ignored government directives banning large religious gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, local police chief Tek Prasad Rai told EFE.
He said that although it was easy to disperse some devotees at the site in the beginning, the situation deteriorated when people turned up in “huge numbers.”
At least four police officers and a pedestrian were injured in clashes after some locals pelted stones and bricks at the security forces as they tried to disperse the crowd. The police responded by firing tear gas and using water cannons.
A two-week long prohibitory order against mass gatherings had expired on Wednesday night, but local authorities extended it for another week due to a fresh surge in Covid-19 cases in the country.
According to the health ministry, on Thursday Nepal reported the largest-ever single-day tally of coronavirus cases with 1,228 infections, taking the total number of cases to 42,877, including 257 deaths.
“Our people were not involved in today’s agitation and we don’t recognize those who attempted to pull the chariot,” said Chandra Maharjan, the coordinator of the festival, which was originally set to take place on Apr. 24 but was postponed due to coronavirus restrictions.
Maharjan told EFE that the organizers were discussing whether the festival should be canceled for this entire year.
The procession, which passes through a number of cities and figures among the most important festivals in Nepal, dates back more than seven centuries and is traditionally attended by massive crowds praying for good rains
According to the tradition, the Kathmandu valley suffered a serious drought during the reign of King Narendra Dev in the 7th century, resulting in the king carrying the image of Rato Mahhindranath from the northeastern Indian province of Assam to Nepal, an act which brought back the rains. EFE-EPA