Delhi temples adhere to COVID guidelines; devotees accept changes in stride

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New Delhi, Apr 13 (PTI) Amid a rising number of COVID-19 cases, major temples in Delhi decided on new ways to offer 'darshan' facilities for devotees on the first day of Navratri on Tuesday.

While some places like the Kalkaji temple opted for a 'carefully-controlled' process of darshan through e-passes, one of the major religious points in central Delhi, the Jhandewalan temple, decided to keep its doors closed.

The Chattarpur temple has made facilities for 'darshan' on social media for the next nine days.

The government last week prohibited all religious gatherings in view of the current situation. Although in fewer numbers, enthusiastic devotees accepted the restrictions and tried to follow the rules.

During the nine-day festival, temples in Delhi, including the ones at Chattarpur, Kalkaji and Jhandewalan, are flooded with fasting devotees.

Delhi recorded its biggest daily jump of over 13,500 cases on Tuesday.

At the Kalkaji mandir, the authorities decided to not allow any 'prasad' or offerings.

Waiting for her turn in the queue, Shanti Devi, a homemaker from Kailash Colony, said she came despite the risks of COVID-19.

'It's an important day for us but we cannot ignore the situation in the city. With the e-pass, people are not coming here unnecessarily, which is good thing,' Devi said.

Surendra Nath Avdhoot, the head priest of Kalkaji mandir, said they would make sure all norms and guidelines are followed in the next nine days.

'Because of the e-pass system, we have managed the possible situation of overcrowding. We are not allowing anyone to enter without a mask. And outside, there are volunteers making sure people maintain social distancing,” Avdhoot said.

He added that unlike previous years, when around one lakh devotees visited the temple on the first day of Navratri, only 10,000-15,000 turned up on Tuesday.

At the Jhandewalan temple, the priest and the staff performed 'aarti', which was telecast on the temple's website. However, some unaware devotees were seen outside.

Ramdhan Jha, a cab driver from Dwarka, said that it was his routine to stop at the temple before heading home and Tuesday being a special occasion, he arrived early.

'I did not know the temple is closed, although slightly disappointed I can understand the situation. It's ultimately the god's will and we can worship the devi in our hearts,' Jha said.

Kulbhushan Ahuja, general secretary, Jhandewalan temple, said if they hadn't shut the temple, it would have been impossible to control the crowd.

'The number of devotees goes as high as 60,000 per day during the Navratri and under the current circumstances, we have decided to keep the temple closed in public interest.

'We have been maintaining the two-yard distance between people as instructed by the government. During the Navratri, when the number of devotees increases by multiple times, we might still be able to control those in the queue, but how would we control those who gather outside the temple? That will only lead to a mismanagement of the crowd,' he said.

The Chattarpur temple that used to receive 'lakhs of visitors' every day during Navratri before the pandemic hit the country will also remain closed.

'The temple will remain closed for the public from Tuesday till the last day of the Navratri. Puja will be performed by the priests, the only people who will be allowed inside the temple during this time,' the CEO of the temple said.

'The puja proceedings will be telecast on our Youtube channel and there will also be Facebook live. The links to these can be accessed on the temple website,' he added. PTI MAH IJT