Places of religious worship inMaharashtra, which were shut since the imposition of COVID-19lockdown in March, reopened on Monday with devotees visitingsome of the prominent temples and shrines in the state.
The reopening of the places of worship coincided withthe Diwali Padwa, which is an important festival in thestate.
Early in the morning, devotees were seen visitingLord Vitthals temple at Pandharpur in Satara, Saibabasshrine in Shirdi, Goddess Tulja Bhavanis temple in Osmanabadand the famous Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai.
The Siddhivinayak temples chairman Aadesh Bandekar onSunday said only 1,000 devotees will be allowed inside thetemple every day in staggered time slots to be booked througha mobile phone application.
As per the standard operating procedures (SOPs)released by the state government, religious places located outof COVID-19 containment zones have been allowed to reopen asper the timings decided by authorities, and devotees will beallowed inside in a staggered manner.
Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday announcedreopening of the places of worship, but also cautioned people,saying it cannot be forgotten that the “demon of coronavirus”still persists and called for following discipline.
The opposition BJP in the state had been seekingreopening of the places of worship and earlier questioned theThackeray governments decision to not reopen temples at atime when bars were allowed to reopen.
The chief minister, however, had defended his decisionsaying it was difficult to follow physical distancing at theplaces of worship.
The issue had also led to a stand-off betweenThackeray and state Governor B S Koshyari, who reminded theShiv Sena president of his Hindutva credentials and asked ifhe had turned secular.
Koshyaris letter to the chief minister was criticisedby constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Thackeray had said that after places of worship arereopened, rules and safety protocols have to be followedstrictly, and laid stress on wearing masks.
“If we follow discipline, we will get Godsblessings,” Thackeray had said.
According to the SOPs laid down by the government,only asymptomatic people will be allowed inside places ofworship and wearing of face mask is mandatory for devotees.
The number of people to be allowed inside such placesin a particular time slot will be decided on the size of thestructure and ventilation.
Devotees will have to maintain social distancing,while management of such places will have to conduct thermalscanning and make available hand wash or sanitisers, accordingto the SOPs.
Local authorities can further add any directions tothese guidelines taking into consideration local conditions.
Footwear should be preferably taken off insidevehicles, the guidelines said.
Touching of statues, holy books, idols is not allowedand large gatherings continue to remain prohibited.
In view of the potential threat of spread of thecoronavirus infection, only recorded devotional music shouldbe played, and choir or singing groups are not allowed, as perthe SOPs.
Among other guidelines, common prayer mats should beavoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mats orpieces of cloth, which they can take back with them.
Physical offering of prasad, distribution orsprinkling of holy water is not allowed.
Floors at places of worship should be cleaned multipletimes in a day, and community kitchens and langars shouldfollow physical distancing, the guidelines said.
Effective sanitisation of the premises should be donewith a particular focus on lavatories, and hand and footwashing stations.
Workers at places of worship will have to undergopre-joining and weekly COVID-19 tests for highly exposedgroups, as per the SOPs.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)