Covid-hit Karnataka temples wait for devotees in droves
Bengaluru: Reopening after 75 days of closure due to Covid-induced extended lockdown on June 8, thousands of Hindu temples across Karnataka are waiting for devotees in droves, an official said on Thursday.
“As the extended lockdown kept hundreds of devotees away from our temples, which remained shut from March 25 to June 7 to prevent the coronavirus spread, they are waiting for them to come in droves as before the Covid crisis gripped the country,” state muzrai (endowment) department official C. Krishna told IANS.
As one of the popular religious states in the country, Karnataka has about 34,500 temples, which come under the aegis of the state Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department.
“In addition, there are about 500 major temples managed independently by their priests or trustees and don’t depend on the government for funds or any support, as they have been there over hundreds of years and are able to sustain with contributions from devotees and charities,” said Krishna.
Though all temples reopened across cities, towns and villages on Monday, only 40-50 per cent of the devotees are making a beeline from nearby areas unlike in the pre-Covid days when thousands of pilgrims and tourists from outside the state thronged them round the year.
“It is for the first time in many years that thousands of temples across the state remained shut for over 70 days and re-opened with more don’ts than dos, as priests and devotees have to undergo thermal screening, wear mask, wash hands with sanitizer and strictly maintain physical distance in their premises,” said Krishna.
Admitting that the mandatory guidelines to be followed by all have made hundreds of devotees wary of returning to the temples across the state, Krishna said the turnout since Monday had been 40-50 per cent of their capacity in most temples.
“Absence of public transport service and a ban on inter-state private vehicles prevented pilgrims and tourists from visiting the temples from across the country and overseas,” said Krishna.
Suspension of train services and flights across the country for over two months has also prevented hundreds of devotees from visiting their favourite temples.
“Majority of temples in cities and towns across the state are well-known for their presiding deity. Prominent among them are in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru, Udupi, Sringeri, Dharmasthala, Shivamogga, Chitradurga, Davangere and Belagavi,” Krishna pointed out.
Noting that all temples, shrines and mutts across the state suffered huge losses for remaining shut for over two months, the official said the lockdown had seriously affected hundreds of people who are part of the system and their livelihood depended on devotees.
“Though the state government paid salary to priests of over 30,000 temples under the department for April and May, many of their counterparts had to use their savings or borrow as earning dried up during the lockdown,” recalled Krishna.
The famous Chamundeshwari temple near Mysuru and Srikenteshwara temple at Nanjangud in the same district have made elaborate arrangements as per the guidelines to prevent coronavirus spread for devotees to make a come-back.
“Public announcements were also made about the temples’ reopening for the devotees with dos and don’ts. Restrictions on use of puja items, offerings to the deity like prasadam and standing in queue for long time are holding up many worshippers,” pointed out Krishna.
At Ranganatha temple at Srirangapatnam, Chaluvarayaswamy temple at Melkote have reported 30-40 per cent of devotees turning up during the last 3-4 days, while it was about 60 per cent at Male Mahadeshwara temple at MM Hills in Chamarajanagar district.
The Kollur Mookambika temple and the famous Krishna temple in Udupi, Manjunatha temple at Dharmasthala and Kukke Subramanya temple in Dakshina Kannda district, however, are having better turnout, with a steady stream of devotees to have darshan of their presiding deities.
“When the month-long ‘Ashada’ begins from June 22, more devotees are expected to turn up at majority of the temples to perform and participate in the festivals and rituals during the monsoon season in the state,” added Krishna.