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Hundreds in India flout lockdown to cremate ‘divine horse’ who died ‘trying to get rid the world of Covid-19’

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Residents of a small village in southern India were put in isolation after a mass gathering last weekend, during which a horse dedicated to a local deity was solemnly cremated.

The incident happened in Maradimath, a hamlet of about 400 houses in the Karnataka state. Locals flouted social distancing rules, which the state government last week extended till June, to give the sacred animal a send-off.

The horse was attached to a local temple. Earlier in the week, believers released it to graze freely in the village with a prayer to Shri Kadasiddeshwar to rid the world of Covid-19. On Friday night, the horse unexpectedly died, and the next day villagers held an elaborate cremation ceremony, conducted by the temple seer, Sri Pavadeshwar Swami.

Their devotion was not appreciated by local authorities, however. After images of the gathering spread online, the government of the township that includes the locality ordered its full isolation.

Villagers were told to stay in their homes and wait for testing for Covid-19 and other respiratory infections, local official Prakash Holeppagol told journalists on Sunday.

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The state reported 25,979 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday and a record number of coronavirus-related deaths, 626.

State authorities are looking for ways to overcome testing hesitancy among the rural population and ramp up Covid-19 screening.

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