Devotees throng religious places in Mumbai; experts suggest caution

Prominent places of worship in Mumbai like Mumbadevi Mandir, Siddhivinayak temple, Mahim Church as well as both the Mahim and Haji Ali dargahs saw huge crowds of devotees even as the institutions adopted strict Covid-19 guidelines to prevent crowding and maintain physical distancing
Devotees offer their prayers at the Tulja Bhavani Temple after all religious places reopened today as per the directions of Maharashtra government at Panchpakhadi, in Thane. (HT PHOTO)
Devotees offer their prayers at the Tulja Bhavani Temple after all religious places reopened today as per the directions of Maharashtra government at Panchpakhadi, in Thane. (HT PHOTO)
Published on Oct 07, 2021 10:29 PM IST
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ByNaresh Kamath, Mumbai

Six months after places of worship were closed down on account of the rising number of Covid cases in the second wave of the pandemic, devotees across religions were able to offer their prayers as part of a larger community on Thursday.

Prominent places of worship like Mumbadevi Mandir, Siddhivinayak temple, Mahim Church as well as both the Mahim and Haji Ali dargahs saw huge crowds of devotees – including politicians – throng these places, even as the institutions adopted strict Covid-19 guidelines to prevent crowding and maintain physical distancing.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) issued orders on October 1 which reinforced the restrictions put in place by the state: no religious place was allowed to offer “prasad” or sprinkle holy water; devotees were to be allowed only in specific time slots; and all sites could be full up to only 50% capacity.

Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray accompanied by his family members visited the Mumbadevi temple in South Mumbai on Thursday morning. He was followed by Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. Deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar and Water Resources minister Jayant Patil visited Siddhivinayak temple. Minority development minister Nawab Malik and port Development minister Aslam Shaikh went to Mahim and Haji Ali dargahs respectively.

Raj Chakravarty, a designer based in Andheri visited the Mata Rani temple in Andheri on the first day of the Navratri festival. “We were asked to wear the mask at all times and we were sprayed with sanitiser. It is good that the temple authorities are taking due precautions,” he said.

“We are allowing only 250 people per hour and only through online booking. Citizens are following the rules and there is no chaos,” Adesh Bandekar, chairman of the Siddhivinayak Temple Trust said. The temple, which is open from 7am to 7pm every day will allow 2500 devotees daily, Bandekar said.

Suhail Khandwani, Managing Trustee, Mahim and Haji Ali Dargah said that restrictions imposed are working very well. “We are allowing only 25 people inside the dargah at a time.” Both places are open from 6am to 10pm every day, and is being sanitized every four hours.

Bishop John Rodrigues, rector, Mount Mary Church at Bandra said all precautions were taken on Thursday. “We took people in batches of eight for veneration of Mother Mary. During our two prayer services, we took just 60 people in the church though our capacity exceeds 180 people. In addition, our volunteers took all caution to ensure that Covid-19 appropriate behaviour was observed.”

With schools reopening and now places of worship too, medical experts have asked people to remain extra vigilant to prevent the spike in Covid-19 cases.

Dr Rahul Pandit of Fortis Hospital, Mulund, who is also a member of the state’s Covid-19 task force said in view of the easing of restrictions, there was an urgent need for stringent observation of Covid appropriate behaviour.

“The authorities need to keep watching for any surge in cases and act accordingly. They need to take localised timely actions to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus,” said Dr Pandit. “Since there is more movement, citizens should adopt Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and even the authorities need to enforce it strictly,” he added.

In September, the government had allowed the reopening of religious places with strict safety protocols in place. Late in the month it announced that all places of worship would reopen on October 7, the first day of the Navratri festival, an auspicious nine-day festival among Hindus.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra on Thursday recorded 2681 Covid-19 new cases with 49 deaths. Mumbai’s tally of new cases was 453 with five deaths thus bringing its total death toll to 16,141. The total number of Covid-19 patients right from the outbreak last year has now reached 6,570,472.There were 147,320 tests done on Thursday while the number of recoveries clocked at 2,413. The total number of active patients in Maharashtra currently stands at 33,397 while the total number of deaths right from the Covid-19 outbreak has now reached 139,411.

There are currently 33,397 active patients across the state of which Pune tops with 8818 patients followed by Mumbai with 5711 active patients and Thane with 4156. The death toll has now reached 139,411 with Pune leading with 19,496 deaths followed by Mumbai with 16.141 and Thane with 11,383.

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Thursday, December 02, 2021