Wednesday , 12 August 2020
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Fear of COVID-19 keeping devotees away from temples

NIRGOSH GAUDE | NT

Ponda

Even though two major temples in Ponda have opened the doors for devotees from this week onwards, both these places of worship have witnessed only a few people in the first three days.

After following strict standard operating procedures (SOPs), the Shree Shantadurga Temple at Kavlem and Shree Mahalaxmi Temple at Bandora in Ponda taluka reopened for the public this week. These two temples are the first major places of worship in the state to reopen after the nationwide lockdown, which was imposed owing to the COVID 19 outbreak.

Even though the temple committees have taken all precautions to avoid the spread of COVID, only a few devotees have visited the temples. Committee members feel the rising number of COVID cases could be the reason for the lukewarm response of the devotees.

According to sources, the Shantadurga temple has seen around 130 devotees in three days, while the Mahalaxmi temple witnessed 120 visitors in the last two days after it was reopened. Most of the visitors to the temples were from the Ponda taluka only, said the source adding that only a few families from other talukas sought the blessings of the deities in the two temples.

When this reporter visited the temples, it was noticed that the entry point had been changed, with the main gate kept closed. Access to the Shantadurga temple from

the Lokmanya Tilak High School road has been kept open, with devotees being checked with a thermal gun at the entrance. Visitors need to sanitise their hands and register their details beforing entering the temple premises.

It was also noticed that the devotees are not allowed to carry any material in the temple like flowers or other offerings to the deity. Only a few devotees are allowed in the temple at a time and each devotee is permitted to stay in the premises for a few minutes while maintaining social distancing. No circumambulating the deity, no seating and touching any material in the temple is allowed. Security personnel strictly monitor activities of the devotees. Only people who visit the temple for ‘kaul prasad’ are allowed to sit in the temple.

A similar procedure is also followed in the Mahalaxmi temple at Bandora too. The only difference here is that the entry and exit points are separate.

The room and canteen facilities at both the temples are presently shut and both the temples are operating with minimum staff required for the daily activities. The Mahalaxmi temple has around 23 staff including security, while the Shantadurga temple has 52 staffers working at present.

It may be noted that almost a week before the announcement of the nationwide lockdown in March, all major temples in the state had shut their doors for devotees to stop the spread of COVID. In June, the state government had allowed the temples to reopen with SOPs laid down by it. However, the major temples avoided the reopening and announced extension of the temple closure period following a joint meeting of the temple committees. Another meeting of the committees was held on July 5 wherein it was decided to reopen the Shantadurga temple at Kavlem and the Mahalaxmi temple at Bandora. The other major temples in the state are yet to decide on the reopening.

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