A little more than 9 months after the doors of the Jagannath temple in Puri town were shut to devotees due to Covid-19, the temple administration on Saturday decided to open the temple for devotees in a graded manner from December 23 onwards.
Following recommendation of Chhatisa Nijog, the apex body of the Jagannath temple priests, the temple administration has decided to send a proposal to Odisha government next week recommending the re-opening of the 12th-century shrine. The temple doors have been shut since March 20.
Chief administrator of Sri Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) Dr Krishan Kumar said the devotees of Puri would be allowed for 5 days in the first phase followed by people from the rest of the state.
“Residents of Puri will be allowed to see the Lord till December 31. For all devotees, the temple is proposed to be thrown open from January 3 onwards. Covid-19 negative certificate will be mandatory for entry into the temple from January 3 and identity cards are must for the temple servitors and employees of the SJTA,” said Dr Kumar. A maximum of 5,000 devotees will be allowed to have darshan from January 3.
He said the SJTA will take necessary steps for sanitising all the four gates of the temple. Masks and sanitisers will be mandatory for the devotees coming to the temple for darshan of the deities. He urged people above 65 years of age and children not to visit the temple because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Unlike the previous years, the temple would remain shut on January 1 and 2 as the administration would not be able to handle the rush of the devotees.
The opening of Jagannath temple is expected to set the stage for the opening of rest of the temples across the state next month. Over the last couple of months, priests across hundreds of temples have been protesting the closure of temple by beating gongs. Opposition BJP has been demanding the opening of temples, stressing that priests who depend on the donation of the devotees have been in a precarious state ever since the temples closed down.