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After more than a year religious places in Maharashtra open doors to devotees, CM Thackeray urges strict adherence to norms

Temple re-opening had become a bone of contention between ruling MVA and opposition BJP


Pune: After a prolonged gap of more than a year thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic protocols, places of worship across Maharashtra threw their doors open to the devotees on Thursday morning, the first day of the auspicious Navratri festival. Several big and famous temple trusts in Maharashtra made it mandatory for the devotees to make online bookings for making offerings to the deity in a bid to avoid overcrowding.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, who, along with his wife Rashmi Thackeray and State Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, offered prayers at Mumbai’s heritage Mumba Devi Temple. Both the father and son duo cautioned the public to strictly adhere to Covid-19 protocols.

“While everyone has a right to enjoy, I urge people to remain safe by following pandemic regulations and behave like responsible citizens,” Thackeray said.

The Chief Minister noted that arrangements made by trustees and priests at all religious places across the State were designed in such a way so as to prevent further spread of the pandemic.

The Chief Minister further remarked, “With the Covid-19 threat yet to subside, I appreciate the fact that temple authorities have used technology to arrange darshan in temples by using the e-pass system and QR code scanning.”

Also Read: Religious places reopen in Maharashtra; CM Uddhav Thackeray visits Mumbai temple on 1st day of Navratri

The opening of temples and other religious places which were shut since March last year, had led to a political battle between Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other parties like Prakash Ambedkar’s Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA).

Earlier, in August this year, the BJP had staged a statewide protest demanding the re-opening of temples on grounds that the government gave more importance to the opening of liquor bars than religious places.

Several BJP cadres and leaders had taken part in the statewide agitation by symbolically blowing conches in their “Shankhnaad” agitation and defying Covid-19 regulations. Throwing caution and pandemic norms to the winds, protests were held in key temple town areas in Pune, Mumbai, Nashik, Ahmednagar, Aurangabad, Nagpur and Solapur districts.

Last year, just after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic that swept the state, Ambedkar and his VBA activists had staged a big agitation outside the Vitthal-Rukmini temple in Pandharpur (in Solapur district), demanding the re-opening of all religious places in the State.

Meanwhile, all major temples across the State including the Shirdi Saibaba in Ahmednagar, Pandharpur’s most venerated Vitthal Rukmini in Solapur district, Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple and Pune’s Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati made it mandatory for devotees to book their slots for worship, while permitting restricted entry of devotees into the temples.

In many places, fully-vaccinated police personnel were seen patrolling temple premises to monitor and prevent large crowds from thronging outside the temple gates.

The famous Ekvira Devi Temple in Lonavla, perched high atop a hill, opened its doors early morning with the Pune rural police strictly enforcing rules by controlling the crowd of devotees. The temple is known as the Thackeray family’s presiding deity. Policemen were seen monitoring crowds outside the historic Tulja Bhavani temple in Osmanabad district as well.

Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak Temple permitted entry to only 250 devotees, who had previously booked an online slot for worshipping. Large billboards detailing Covid-19 appropriate behaviour were put outside the temple premises.

The Shirdi Saibaba temple has restricted the flow of devotees to just 15,000 while the Vitthal-Rukmini Temple has limited the flow of devotees to 10,000 per day.

Deputy Chief Minister and senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar, who visited the Siddhivinayak temple stressed upon the need for all the devotees to follow norms to ensure that the religious places could remain open in the future.

Pawar remarked, “We have opened all temples and other religious places on the occasion of Navratri with certain conditions to avoid overcrowding. There will be a series of festivals after this, with Diwali and Christmas not far behind. So, to ensure that this festive atmosphere prevails, people must follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour at all times.”


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