Delhi’s worshippers follow social distancing norms to keep Covid-19 away
Coronavirus update: Many people kept pouring in at several temples and gurdwaras across Delhi yet no place of worship reported a massive gathering despite reopening after nearly two and a half months.Updated: Jun 09, 2020, 06:17 IST
Places of worship opened in the national capital on Monday with a new set of new rules, measures and markers to ensure strict adherence to social distancing as the city has reported around 1,000 cases of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) since May 28.
At various places, devotees were being allowed in only after thermal screening. Separate entry and exit paths were made, markers were painted on the floor to guide people so that social distancing is observed. Even though people kept pouring in at several temples and gurdwaras across the city, no place of worship reported a massive gathering despite opening after a hiatus of nearly two and a half months.
Neha Gupta, 28, who lives in East Delhi’s Gandhi Nagar, visited the Hanuman Mandir in Connaught Place on Monday. “Every year on my birthday, I would start my day by offering prayers at the Marghat Mandir at Kashmere Gate. But since it was not open today, we came to the Hanuman Mandir. It was the best gift that I could receive on this day,” said Gupta, who had come along with her husband.
The temple, which otherwise sees long queues on select days of the week, had a few people coming in. The devotees had to cross through a sanitising tunnel to climb up the stairs to reach the main hall. The temple bells were covered with a cloth, the steel barriers before the deities where devotees would usually bow down. were also out of bound for the people.
Actor-turned politician and former Delhi-BJP chief Manoj Tiwari also visited the temple on Monday. A video of a man dressed as lord Hanuman dancing outside the temple was also widely shared on the social media. Suresh Sharma, the temple mahant (main priest), said, “We had requested Ram Chandra, a devotee, who dresses up as the deity on every Hanuman Jayanti and does ‘seva’ at the temple to come down today, as the temple had opened after over two months. We have taken all precautions to maintain contactless praying. Not more than four people were allowed in at a time. We are expecting more people on Tuesday, an important day for the devotees of lord Hanuman.”
At the nearby Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, placards hung across railings with messages urging people to maintain distance and use had sanitiser. The entry to the gurdwara was through a sanitising tunnel. Outside the main hall, the sevadars poured sanitiser on the hands of the devotees. The langar (community feast) services within the premises have been suspended for a while.
Anuj Khanna, 33, used his lunch break to come down from his workplace nearby to visit the gurdwara. “I used to come here every Sunday. When I saw the news that places of worship are opening up, I couldn’t wait to come out to pray for my father, who has not been keeping well,” said Khanna.
Gurpreet Singh Bicky, in-charge of the arrangements at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, said, “We have deployed 60-70 sevadars all around the gurdwara to manage the devotees coming in and ensure that there is no violation of norms. Not many people came in today but we are prepared to deal with even larger numbers”
Some of the institutions such as the Sacred Heart Cathedral in central Delhi and Akshardham Temple, among others, though remained shut.
Shashi Toppo, 24, had come all the way in a bus from Najafgarh to pray at the Valenkanni Church at Khan Market. “I used to come to the church every Saturday. I didn’t want to wait till the end of the week and thought to offer prayers for my family,” she said. At the church, the candle lighting stand outside did not have any devotees, wooden benches were placed to maintain distance from the altar while the holy water was not being given.
At Old Delhi’s Jama Masjid, prayers for only three times --- zuhr, asr and maghrib --- were opened for the public. People were not being allowed for the remaining two -- fajr and ishaa -- in view of the night curfew timings. While fajr is offered early in the morning (around 4.30am), ishaa is performed in the night (around 9pm). A team of police guarded the main entrance to the mosque.
“The gates are opened only around the time of the namaz to avoid crowding. People are requested to come after doing wuzu (ablution) at home so that time could be saved. Upon entry, hand sanitiser is being administered. Devotees will now have to on alternate blocks on the floor. Around 150-200 people offered namaz on the first day,” said a person associated with the Shahi Imam’s office.