Places Of Worship Reopen In Maharashtra As Devotees Visit Temples
Siddhivinayak Temple in Mumbai. 

Places Of Worship Reopen In Maharashtra As Devotees Visit Temples

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Places of religious worship in Maharashtra, which were shut due to the imposition of the lockdown in March, reopened on Monday with devotees visiting some of the prominent temples and shrines in the state.

The reopening of the places of worship have coincided with the Diwali 'Padwa', which is an important festival in the state.

Devotees were seen visiting Lord Vitthal's temple at Pandharpur in Satara, Saibaba's shrine in Shirdi, Goddess Tulja Bhavani's temple in Osmanabad and the famous Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai.

The Siddhivinayak temple's chairman Aadesh Bandekar on Sunday said that only 1,000 devotees will be allowed inside the temple every day, in staggered time slots to be booked via a mobile phone application.

As per the standard operating procedures released by the state government, religious places located out of Covid-19 containment zones have been allowed to reopen as per the timings decided by authorities and devotees will be allowed inside in a staggered manner.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday announced the reopening of places of worship, but also advocated caution, saying the Covid-19 virus was still rampant.

The opposition BJP in the state had been seeking reopening of the places of worship and had earlier questioned the state government’s decision to not reopen temples at a time when bars were allowed to reopen.

The chief minister, however, had defended his decision saying it was difficult to follow physical distancing at places of worship.

The number of people to be allowed inside places of worship in a particular time slot will be decided on the size of the structure and ventilation.

Devotees will have to maintain social distancing, while management of such places will have to conduct thermal scanning and make available hand wash or sanitisers, according to the guidelines.

Local authorities can further add any directions to these guidelines taking into consideration local conditions.

Footwear should be preferably taken off inside vehicles, the guidelines said.

Touching of statues, holy books, idols is not allowed and large gatherings continue to remain prohibited.

In view of the potential threat of spread of the coronavirus infection, only recorded devotional music should be played, and choir or singing groups are not allowed.

Among other guidelines, common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mats or pieces of cloth, which they can take back with them.

Physical offering of 'prasad', distribution or sprinkling of holy water is not allowed.

Floors at places of worship should be cleaned multiple times in a day, and community kitchens and 'langars' should follow physical distancing, the guidelines said.

Effective sanitisation of the premises should be done with a particular focus on lavatories, and hand and foot washing stations.

Workers at places of worship will have to undergo pre-joining and weekly Covid-19 tests for highly exposed groups, as per the guidelines.

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