Prayagraj: Several prominent temples in Prayagraj have sought grants from the state government to meet their expenses.
Though the temples are now preparing to reopen from June 8 under ‘Unlock 1‘, the priests claim that they are finding it difficult to pay salaries to staff and perform Vedic rituals of the temples.
According to Pandit Shyamji Pathak, the chief priest of Maa Kalyani Devi temple, “We are unable to meet the daily expenses because income has completely stopped during the two-month lockdown.”
Her said that a minimum amount of Rs 30,000 is spent every month on workers’ salaries and for daily essential works like cleaning and decoration of temple. As the source of income has stopped, other priests have started returning to their native villages.
The priest said that the temple had maximum earnings during ‘Navratri’ but this year, the ‘Navratri’ was held during the lockdown and the temple was shut.
“Ahead of Navratri, we had spent around Rs 1.50 lakh on decoration and renovation of the temple but when lockdown was enforced and devotees were not allowed to visit temple, we had to manage all religious activities without any source of income. Now we have no money for the daily ‘aarti’ and other rituals. The government should give us aid to keep the temples going,” he said.
Pandit Ravi Shankar, chief priest of Takshkeshwarnath temple, said, “We have tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath to take steps for better care of temple’s daily activities during the lockdown period but there has been no response. The daily rituals in the temples can no longer be carried out and lakhs of priests, who earn their living by performing various rituals, are also left with no income.”
Shashwat Tripathi of Bade Hanuman temple, said that apart from priests who are directly linked to temples, the business of flower vendors and sweet makers had also come to a halt.
“We have appealed to the district administration to provide financial relief to them and waive off power and water bills of the temples but there has been no response,” he said.
He said that temples are not only places of worship but also a major tourist attraction in the religious tourist circuit.
The Akhil Bhartiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP)—the apex decision-making body of 13 akharas representing thousands of seers and saints-had, last month, written to the Prime Minister, union home minister and UP chief minister to allow reopening of temples in the state.
The Congress and the Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party Lohia had also sought reopening of places of religious worship.