Navratras during COVID19: City of Temples closes doors to devotees

Jammu, Mar 25 The ‘City of Temples,’ on Wednesday wore a deserted look on the first day of Navratras, as no special prayers were offered and no long queues were seen outside the temples, due to the lockdown in the state, in view of the Novel Coronavirus threat.
As soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a complete 21-day lockdown from Tuesday midnight, people purchased grocery items, especially for the nine-day long festival, dedicated to Goddess Durga.
The temples, including the famous Shri Raghunath Ji temple, Kali Temple-locally known as ‘Maa Bawe Wali,’ in which Jammu possess faith that she saves them from all evils, remained shut due to lockdown.
All religious places were completely closed last week in Jammu, to prevent gathering of people, as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19.
Though priests and pandits performed ritual ceremonies at temples by performing ‘aarti,’ but there was no entry for the public.
No vendors were seen outside the temples selling flowers, coconuts, ‘agarbattis’, and all shops of sweets were closed due to total lockdown, barring those dealing in essential commodities.
Meanwhile, police in official gypsies also made announcements, appealing people to stay indoors and urging only one person from a family to move out and purchase essential goods.
On Wednesday, police also cracked down on those people, who were roaming without any task on streets and punished them on the spot by making them sit for sometime in encircled areas, keeping social distancing in mind.
”For the first time in the history, the doors of temples have been shut for the devotees and only the ‘pandits’ performed special prayers,” the head of Bahu Fort Shopkeepers Association said on phone.
He added that apprehending extension of lockdown, the dealers this year did not buy flowers, made sweets and coconuts and those who had dumped, suffered losses.
”At this juncture, it is not a matter of losses, they can be procured any time, but the crucial stage we are passing through,” he said and prayed to the Goddess Durga that the time passes off peacefully, without major damages and peace and harmony is restored across the world.
Reports from Katra said that pilgrimage was already suspended, first time in the history, but all rituals are being performed on a daily basis, by the religious heads at the Cave Shrine.
Official spokesman of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board here said, ”Shat Chandi Maha Yagya organised at the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi commenced today on the auspicious occasion of beginning of Navratras, amid chanting of Vedic Mantras and performance of other religious ceremonies.”
The Maha Yagya, which is being performed at the Holy Cave Shrine during Navratras for peace, prosperity and health of humanity, will conclude with Purna Ahuti on Ramanavami.
Ramesh Kumar, Chief Executive Officer, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board; Vivek Verma, Additional CEO; and Naresh Kumar, SDM Bhawan; were present on the occasion.
The Shat Chandi Maha Yagya will be telecast from 0600 hrs to 1900 hrs daily from today onwards during Navratras. There will be also live darshan of Maa Vaishno Devi’s Pindi Roop (form) everyday, during the morning and evening Aarti.  
The CEO said that like in the past, the Bhawan of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji, Atka and the area surrounding it have been decorated with flowers, on the occasion of Navratras.
In view of the prevailing situation due to COVID-19, the Yatra to the Holy Cave Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji was suspended on March 18.
However, Pooja, Aarti and all other rituals are being performed at the Holy Cave Shrine as usual, he added.

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