Two of India’s biggest shrines, Lord Ayyappa Temple in Kerala and that of Lord Venkateswara in Andhra Pradesh, will reopen for devotees from next week in lines with the Centre’s guidelines, but will do so with a slew of restrictions.
Older people and children will not be allowed in both the hill shrines, while there will be a cap on the number of devotees allowed darshan in the respective temples.
The Lord Balaji temple in Tirupati will open its doors to devotees on June 11, after a gap of more than 80 days, temple administering body TTD said.
The Sabarimala shrine will function from June 9 onwards, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said in Thiruvananthapuram.
Both the temples had remained closed to stem the spread of coronavirus but the Centre had recently announced “Unlock 1.0”, its graded exit plan from the lockdown, and allowed temples and other religious places of worship to open from June 8 onwards as part of the measure.
The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) said only 10 per cent of the pre-Covid-19 normal day rush will be now allowed in the shrine.
Only 6,000 devotees per day as against the normal rush of over 60,000 would be allowed and COVID-19 precautions, including six feet distance between each other and wearing of face mask, would be strictly followed, it said.
The ban on entry of devotees, enforced on March 20, was being lifted from June 11 and less than 500 people per hour would be permitted entry for 13 hours from dawn to dusk every day, TTD Chairman Y V Subba Reddy, Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal and Additional Executive Officer A V Dharma Reddy told a joint press conference at Tirumala.
Children aged below 10 years and elderly above 65 would not be allowed into the shrine, thronged by devotees from across the country and overseas throughout the year, they said.
All TTD employees involved in regulating devotees would be wearing personal protection equipment (PPE) suits.
Studying devotees’ travel history and random COVID-19 screening are other measures and those with symptoms of the virus would be immediately quarantined.
A total of 3,000 special darshan tickets, each priced at Rs 300, would be available online daily.
The remaining 3,000 would be set apart for free darshan and devotees opting for it can register themselves for the time slot at designated places including Alipiri at the foothills of Tirumala.
The online ticket sales would commence from June 8.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said Sabarimala temple, besides other places of religious worship in Kerala, will start functioning from June 9. These places would be disinfected the previous day.
The maximum number of people inside a place of worship will be decided as per its size.
“Only 15 people per 100 square metre, maintaining a six feet distance between each other can be allowed but must restrict to a maximum of 100 people at a time in the premises,” he said.
The devotees would be allowed to offer worship through a virtual queue and a maximum of 50 people would be allowed.
“Children and aged would not be permitted at the temple,” Vijayan said.
The chief minister added there will be thermal scans at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam at Sabarimala and special provision to perform ‘Neyyabhishekam’, a ritual of offering ghee to the deity.