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Bring your own mat, no prasad or flowers: Places of worship prepare to open the gates

The Delhi government is yet to release any guidelines on reopening of religious places.

A temple in Jhandewalan being sanitised.

As places of worship are expected to reopen on Monday, preparations for sanitisation and social distancing at temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches are in full swing — from floor marking for devotees and sanitisers every few metres to ban on offerings of flowers and food, and regular announcements on keeping children and the elderly at home.

As per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship can open from June 8, as part of phase I of the “unlockdown”. However, the Delhi government is yet to release any guidelines on reopening of religious places.

Imam Bukhari of the Jama Masjid told The Indian Express, “We have emptied the pond in the premises so no wazu (ablution) is done there to avoid spread of Covid-19. We have asked devotees to do wazu at home. We have removed the carpet as well, and have asked people to bring their own prayer mats. Alternate rows will be empty.”

Bukhari said that regular announcements are being made to ensure that the elderly, children and the sick pray at home. “We will follow all guidelines and ensure social distancing, but I hope the government reconsiders this move since the cases are rising daily,” he said.

Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas said, “Several churches have small communities that visit, so it is easy to manage. Sanitisers are being put up outside churches. Faith is important at a time like this.”

Surender Nath Mahant of Kalkaji temple said thermal scanners and sanitisers are being installed. “People will be allowed in batches of 15-20 only. Masks will be mandatory. No offerings of food or flowers will be accepted. No prasad will be given,” he said.

Former Delhi MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa, who is the president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee, said devotees will be asked to leave their footwear in their vehicles and to bring their own dupatta or handkerchief to wear over their heads. “Instead of one, we have now made four entry points at Sri Bangla Sahib Gurdwara,” he said

He also said there is a contradiction in MHA’s guidelines. “It says we can do langar (community kitchen) but can’t give prasad. Aren’t both going to be served by people? It is our ritual to do bhog of the kada prasad first. How can we not do that now?”

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