Bengaluru, June 7, 2020: Social distancing will be the ’mantra’ while traditional practices such as ’archana’ and giving ’teertha’ (holy water) will be missing in places of worship in Karnataka when they open for devotees from Monday with a slew of restrictions after almost a three-month-long hiatus due to coronavirus lockdown.
Temples and mosques will reopen on Monday but the Church is set to allow its faithful from June 13, giving itself time to sensitise them and parish priests about the guidelines to be followed as part of the fight against the deadly virus.
Places of worship have remained shut for public since March 24 when the first phase of national lockdown was enforced.
The state government has allowed religious places to open for public in line with the Centre’s guidelines as part of Unlock 1 and issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) with do’s and don’ts including compulsory face mask for both devotees and priests, thermal screening and barring entry for children below 10 years and elders above 65. In a bid to prevent spread of coronavirus which has affected over 5,000 people in the state, it has specified conditions such as social distancing, no distribution of ’teertha’ (Charanamruta) or ’prasada’, no temple bells for devotees and a bar on special ’pooja’ or ’archana’.
Accordingly, the temples, mosques and churches have painted social distancing boxes where the devotees will have to stand in queue and wait for their turn, wile masks have been made mandatory for all, including priests.
They have also arranged sanitisers, santiser tunnels and thermal screening guns. "We have been directed not to organise special pooja. We will not give any teertha or prasada. There will be sanitisers at the entry points.
There will be thermal screening too," Krishna, Executive Officer of five-century-old Vasanta Vallabharaya Temple at Vasantapura here, told PTI. N Srinivas, a priest of a temple at Halasuru in the city, said devotees will come, pay their obeisance and leave.
"There will be no congregation, no sitting inside the temple and no special prayers. People will have to come, bow before the deity and leave," he said.
Mosques in Karnataka have also taken precautions to keep off the virus. "There will be queue management with social distancing boxes, sanitisers, sanitiser tunnels and thermal screening at the entrance itself," Maqsood Imran, Khateeb-o-Imam of Bengaluru Jama Masjid told PTI.
According to him, tanks for mandatory ablutions have been emptied and mats removed from the mosque. "Earlier, 10,000 people used to pray together in our mosque but after the new norm, we can accommodate only 1,500 people.
If there are more devotees insisting to pray inside the mosque then, we will arrange prayers in batches," Imran said. The Archdiocese of Bangalore has deferred the opening of churches for masses till June 13 to sensitise the Roman Catholic Christians before letting them come to the churches. The copy of standard operating procedure was received on Saturday evening and accordingly, a meeting was convened where it was decided to open the churches on June 13, public relation officer of the archdiocese J A Kantharaj told PTI. "We have deferred opening churches till June 13.
We have 130 Roman Catholic churches under our jurisdiction. It is a big responsibility to allow devotees to come in. So, the next five days will be spent on educating visitors and making necessary preparations in our churches," he said.
A report from Mangaluru said Dakshina Kannada District Khazi P M Ibrahim Musliyar announced guidelines to be followed while offering prayers in mosques from Monday. People with symptoms of cold and cough will not be allowed in the mosques and maintaining social distance during Namaz is mandatory.
Each person should bring from home the mat required for Namaz and mosques should be opened only during prayers, he said in a release.
Mangaluru diocese bishop Peter Paul Saldanha in a circular requested all parish priests to make the required arrangements to open churches and to have religious services adhering to the government guidelines. Thermal screeners, sanitizers and seating should be arranged and volunteers posted to regulate entry, he said.
With inputs from PTI