Mysuru (Karnataka), June 16 (IANS) Devotees would not be allowed into the famous Hindu temple atop the Chamundi hills in Karnataka’s Mysuru on Fridays of Hindu calendar month ‘Ashada’, beginning June 22, to prevent crowding amid the Covid-induced lockdown, a top official said on Tuesday.
“As thousands of devotees throng the Chamundeshwari temple atop the hill during the auspicious month of Ashada, especially on Fridays and the weekends, we have decided to ban their entry to prevent crowding and avoid getting infected by the virus,” Mysuru Deputy Commissioner Abhiram Shankar told IANS here.
Mysuru, the southern state’s cultural capital and popular tourist spot, is about 150km southwest of Bengaluru.
The temple on the city’s outskirts, however, will be open for devotees from Monday to Thursday, as per the extended lockdown guidelines. Devotees must wear mask, maintain physical distance and not bring holy water to sprinkle or offer prasadam to the presiding deity.
“Since the temple was re-opened on June 8 under unlock 1.0 after remaining shut for 75 days since March 25 due to the extended lockdown, about 2,000-6,000 devotees, including women and children, have been visiting it daily as per the guidelines,” Shankar said.
The ban will also apply on July 13, though a Monday, which marks the birthday of the goddess, which is celebrated as Chamundi Varadanthi Utsav (fest).
“The temple’s priests will be allowed to conduct rituals and other activities from Friday to Sunday as on other four days of a week till Ashada ends on July 20,” said Shankar.
Admitting that it’s the first time due to the Covid-19 induced lockdown that the district administration was forced to enforce the ban on three days of a week till Ashada ends, Shankar said the area around the temple was small and the passage to it through the hill was narrow to allow so many people gather at a time.
“As per the guidelines to all religious places of worship, large congregations or gatherings are not allowed to ensure social distancing. Even community feeding is banned,” said Shankar.
The administration has deployed additional police personnel from the foothills to the temple to regulate the movement of devotees and their vehicles.
The priests have also been advised to convey to the devotees to visit the temple on any day from Monday to Thursday due to the ban from Friday to Sunday.
According to temple chief priest Shahishekar Dixit, special poojas are conducted on Fridays of Ashada to invoke the goddess of power, as Chamundi is an incarnation of goddesses Durga and Lakshmi, to fulfill the wishes of devotees, as mentioned in the Skanda Purana (epic).
“We have been able to contain the virus spread by taking preventive measures and strictly enforcing the lockdown guidelines,” asserted Shankar.
Of the 118 positive cases across the southern district till date, 14 are active, 104 have been cured and discharged, while not a single death occurred since the outbreak of the virus in mid-March.
District minister S.T. Somashekar, Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha member Pratap Simha, the temple administration board and local officials met earlier in the day and decided to ban the entry of devotees from Friday to Sunday during Ashada.