JANMASHTAMI WILL be celebrated a little differently this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike before, this time temples will not be having ‘jhankis’ where children would be dressed as ‘Bal Krishna’, ‘Shiv-Parvati’, ‘Radha’ and many other characters to depict the story of Hindu god Krishna. They will however have the traditional ‘jhoola’ (swing) in which the ‘Bal Gopal’ idol will be placed. However, no one will be allowed to touch it and devotees will have to pray from a distance.
However, agreeing to the demand of temple managements, the Punjab government has allowed temples to stay open till 1 am on Wednesday, and hence the night curfew will be imposed from 1 am to 5 am for a day. This will be implemented in temples across the state. Ludhiana DC Varinder Sharma said, “Not more than 20 persons can be inside a temple at a time. All Covid protocols of social distancing, sanitisation etc. need to be followed by temple managements.”
“With Covid, so many things have changed in temples as well. We need to accept them,” said Pardeep Dhall, from the mandir management committee of Geeta Mandir at Vikas Nagar. “There will be no jhankis. People are already hardly coming inside temples. Even in Janmashtami, they will not be allowed to enter. They can pay their respects from the verandah as the jhoola will be placed there itself. Midnight puja will be done by our priests only,” he added.
In Durga Mata Mandir at Jagraon bridge, Varinder Mittal from the temple management said, “Our temple has been decorated since August 5 when the ground breaking ceremony of Ram Mandir was organised at Ayodhya. Now we have added a ‘jhoola’ for ‘Bal Gopal’. Temperature of every devotee is being checked with thermal thermometers and it will be done on Janmashtami as well. People need to sanitise their hands before and after giving jhoola to Bal Gopal. We do not allow more than 5 persons at one place in the temple.”
Madan Lal Chopra, president of Santan Dharam Temples Mahotsav Committee said, “We had requested the Punjab government to allow our temples to remain open till 1 am on Janmashtami as Krishan janam (birth of Krishna) is always celebrated in midnight. We are thankful to them that they have allowed it. Devotees are already coming in very few numbers so I don’t think social distancing will be an issue in temples.”
A total 150 temples of Ludhiana are part of this committee. Usually, not less than 30,000 devotees visit major temples of the district every Janmashtami. Mittal however said, “The footfall is not more than 25 devotees a day now.”
Temple managements are planning to give prasad in the form of toffees, mishri packets. They have not yet decided how to distribute ‘choorma prasad’, which is popularly made on Janmashtami. “Shobha yatra, which used to be organised a day before, has also been canceled,” said Chopra.
Collection of donations in temples has also taken a major hit during pandemic times.
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