Wed. Apr 14th, 2021
Maharashtra: Book online for darshan in temples; decision on mass after Wednesday

MUMBAI: Post-lockdown guidelines will be firmly in place Monday as the state permits religious places to reopen to the public. Shirdi Sai temple and Siddhivinayak trust have instructed devotees to book online darshan before visiting. Churches will not resume public attendance at mass as yet, although devotees can visit for personal prayer from 10am to noon, and 4-7pm.
In a letter to parish priests on Sunday, the Archbishop of Bombay Oswald Cardinal Gracias advised a watch-and-wait approach. He will evaluate the situation on Wednesday and then take a call. Till then, he has urged priests to enforce the use of masks, sanitiser and social distancing every step of the way.
For the last eight months, devotees keen to enter places of worship were thwarted by locked gates. They often halted outside, said a silent prayer and went on their way. Monday will bring an end to this separation.
The post-lockdown protocol calls upon devotees to arm themselves with masks, prayer mats and avoid physical contact with the idol and one another. Universally, children below 10 years and the elderly and sick patients will be turned back.
The Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust in Shirdi has mandated visitors to make online bookings and obtain a time slot for darshan. People will have to show their booking receipts at the entrance. Up to 6,000 people will be allowed daily, in contrast to the average footfall of 20,000-30,000. While 50% will be paid darshan, the remainder will be free. There will be no distribution of sweets, although devotees will receive prasad in the halls built for the purpose.
Mumbai’s nodal Siddhivinayak shrine has instructed devotees to download its app to book darshan, or get a QR code. Here, 100 people will be allowed every hour, and a maximum of 1,000 per day.
Wadala’s Ram Mandir, which wore a forlorn look through Ram Navami and Dussehra, will reopen with
‘kakad aarti’ at 6am, said trust general secretary Ulhas Kamat.
After eight months, the muezzin will call Muslims to prayer from the local mosque. On Sunday, the long prayer carpet was removed from the Andheri Muslim Qabrastan Masjid at Four Bungalows. Trustee Atik Babar Kashmiri said, “We will follow all government guidelines and request namazis to bring their own prayer mats. We have requisitioned a foot-operated sanitiser dispenser as well.”
The Archdiocese of Bombay is treading cautiously under its shepherd, Cardinal Gracias. “He has said that people can pay a visit to the blessed sacrament or come for personal prayer but not attend mass just yet. He will evaluate the situation on Wednesday. Masses are in any case being streamed live,” said Fr Vincent Vaz, parish priest of Holy Family Church, Chakala.
Nasha R Jassawalla, managing trustee of the Rustomfaramna Agiary or fire temple at Dadar Parsi Colony, cautioned behdins (worshippers) against bringing flowers and offerings, maintain physical distance at celebrations or ceremonies, and use masks and sanitisers. The agiary has removed its prayer books for the public.
(Inputs by Ranjan Dasgupta from Nashik)

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