Religious places across Maharashtra reopened on Monday after nearly eight months of closure due to the lockdown imposed in a bid to control the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The announcement to reopen religious places in Maharashtra was made by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) on Saturday.
The prominent religious places in the state include Sai Baba temple in Shirdi, the Mahim Dargah and Siddhivinayak temple in Mumbai and the Dagdusheth Halwai Temple in Pune.
The gates of the places of worship were opened after midnight for the management officials to clean and sanitise the premises ahead of its reopening for devotees to offer early morning prayers.
“People have been waiting for over eight months. Government SOP and internal SOP of the dargah will be followed. We have put up boards with government and Dargah SOPs. Only those with face masks will be allowed inside the premises and their temperature will be recorded before entry,” Mahim Dargah trustee Suhail Y Khandwani said.
“I feel fortunate that I visited the temple in the new year, after Diwali. I’m very happy. All Covid-19 precautionary measures are being taken here,” a devotee who visited the Siddhivinayak temple told news agency ANI.
As per the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) laid down by the Maharashtra government, religious places located in the containment zones have not been allowed to open. Only asymptomatic people will be allowed inside places of worship, and they will have to enter in a staggered manner.
Wearing a face mask is mandatory and the visitors are required to strictly follow the social distancing norms. The state government has also asked the management of these places to conduct thermal scanning and provide visitors with hand wash facility or sanitiser.
Touching statues, holy books and idols is prohibited under the guidelines. Also, only recorded devotional music will be played. Choir or singing groups are not allowed.
These SOPs have also empowered the local authorities to add directions to check the spread of the infection. Accordingly, the management of the Sai Baba temple in Shirdi said it will only allow visitors inside the premises after an online booking for a specific time slot.
“We have made arrangements to control the crowd at the temple. People will be allotted time slots online for visit. Only 6,000 people will be allowed to enter the temple in a day. The temple will only remain open for 14 hours,” a representative of the temple added.
Religious places across Maharashtra have remained shut since March this year, when the central government imposed a complete lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 pandemic.