Rising to the occasion during the COVID-induced lockdown, temples in Tamil Nadu are providing food to more than one lakh people across the state every day since May 12. About 754 temples are distributing meals to people at noon.
“Since the partial lockdown as well as full lockdown began, the state government instructed temples across the state to cook food within the premises and distribute to the needy. State Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) minister Sekar Babu launched this under the Annadhanam scheme on May 12 and since then we have been distributing food to nearly 1 lakh people,” said a senior HR&CE official.
In Palani and Srirangam temple, food is being offered throughout the day. “Just like Tirumala temple, Palani and Srigangam also provide food throughout the day. Not fewer than 5,000 to 6,000 people have food daily in these two temples,” said the official.
Food cooked in temples is also being distributed to government hospitals, primary health centres (PHCs), district hospitals, etc. The official added, “While big temples provide food to as many people as possible, small temples in rural areas provide food to a minimum of 10 people. In many districts, temple food is being given to doctors, nurses, patients and other health department workers. I did taste food cooked in temples and it is good.”
Most temples provide a variety of rice to the people. “Each person is being provided a packet of variety rice like coconut, lemon and sambhar rice. All temples have a separate place to cook food and the big temples have proper kitchens,” said the official.
In Chennai, Mylapore Kapaleeswarar temple prepares 3,000 packets each day. “Each packet weighs 400 to 500 grams. We change the menu daily and provide tasty and clean food. Each packet costs not fewer than Rs 25 to Rs 28,” said a temple official.
Even last year, the temples distributed food when the lockdown had continued for more than 4 months. “All temples have been asked to use their own funds to provide food. Many temples have asked people to donate money towards Annadhanam scheme and we have started receiving money to provide food daily,” said the official.
The food distribution is expected to continue till the lockdown is fully lifted. “The government has not given any date to stop the food distribution and therefore we will continue to provide food. On normal days, we used to provide to less than 50 people daily and that will continue even after the lockdown is lifted,” said the official.