Maharashtra: As places of worship reopen and devotees return, several steps in place to ensure safety

Churchgoer Riya Thomas (19), however, feels that since markets, malls and other public places have reopened, there is no reason why people should hold back from visiting religious places.

Although 28-year-old Jasneet Kaur, who regularly visits Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, is pleased with the decision to reopen places of worship in the city, she still feels hesitant to go. Churchgoer Riya Thomas (19), however, feels that since markets, malls and other public places have reopened, there is no reason why people should hold back from visiting religious places.

“I regularly visit Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar in Camp. While the gurudwara has reopened, I am still apprehensive about going. Moreover, we have adopted new methods to offer prayers. My father-in-law and many others seek ‘darshan’ at the gate from their vehicles for last eight-nine months,” said Kaur.

Religious places, closed since March, reopened on Monday. Sanitiser dispensers at entrances, compulsory wearing of masks, social distancing and placing volunteers to prevent crowding are among steps taken by the authorities at places of worship.

Charanjit Singh Sahni, president of Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar, said langar and special kirtan still remain suspended. “Our sevadars and volunteers were first tested for Covid before they prepared the gurudwara for devotees. They can come for darshan, maintaining social distance,” he said.

Sahni said that meetings and discussions are under way among gurudwaras for Guru Nanak Gurpurab on November 30. “It is one of our biggest celebrations and we are still formulating how to organise it keeping in mind that the virus has not gone yet and the safety of people is our primary concern,” he added.

Bishop Thomas Dabre, while appreciating the decision of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, urged people to adhere to safety norms. “While the state government has shown its openness, we cannot take it lightly. All members need to use sanitisers, wear masks and maintain social distancing,” he said.

Father Malcolm Sequira, Vicar General, said churches in the city will reopen in a phased manner. “We have called in volunteers to keep a check on churchgoers. In St Vincent, we have made sure that the entry and exit are different so that people do not intermingle. We are planning to hold services on Sunday in sections, with a time gap to prepare the church for the next service. We are still not keeping holy water to mark oneself before mass and also asking people to abstain from seeking blessing from priests on the forehead,” he said.

While the Feast of Christ the King, which is on November 22, will be observed following government guidelines, Christmas preparations will be made in due time.

Varad Thakar of Kasbapeth Ganesh Temple and Harish More, manager at Mahalaxami Temple at Shukrawarpeth, said that while they anticipated heavy footfall in the festival season, only a few devotees trickled in on day one. “We will keep a track of how the situation pans out. While we hope for the situation to get better for patrons to visit, we will not hesitate to close the temple if the situation worsens,” said More.

“We are allowing five people for aarti after a thermal check at the entrance, use of sanitisers and masks. While we urge children and senior citizens to not visit, we really cannot say no. We are also avoiding distribution of prasad, offerings of any kind and gatherings,” said Thakar.

Faizane Madina Masjid in Kondhwa and Inam Masjid, Sangamwadi, have prepared their premises for reopening. “We have multiple entry and exits. There will be sanitiser stations, thermal checks as well as masks, in case someone arrives without one. We will not let anyone enter without one. We are also requesting people to perform Wudu at home to avoid crowds at the premises,” said Anwar Sufi, chairman at Faizane Madina Masjid.

“We welcome the decision but cases of coronavirus are still high. Although we have urged children and senior citizens to pray in the safety of their homes, we cannot really say no since people are coming back after a long time,” said Ahmed Nadaf, trustee of Inam Masjid.

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