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Karnataka to open temples from June 1


Bengaluru, May 26: Temples in Karnataka, closed for over two months due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, will be opened for public from June 1, making the southern state the first in the country to allow devotees in shrines ever since the curbs kicked in.

The national lockdown enforced by the Centre to stem the spread of Coronavirus since March 25, and in its fourth leg now, is slated till May 31.

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"We have had discussions with the Chief Minister (B S Yeddiyurappa) regarding Muzrai department, during which it was decided to open the temples from June 1," Kota Srinivas Poojary, the minister for Hindu religious institutions and charitable endowments (Muzrai), said.

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    However, according to official sources, the decision will be subject to Centre's guidelines on the next course of lockdown. Speaking to reporters after meeting Yediyurappa, he said the plan is to allow all 'sevas' (rituals) at the temples once they open, but depending on the situation, they may limit it to a few.

    "We will decide on it," he added. According to him, as trains, flights and vehicular movements have started, and hotels likely to resume functioning shortly, several devotees have been demanding opening of temples to offer prayers.

    "The temples will be opened to offer pooja and daily rituals, we are not permitting temple fairs and events," the minister said. Karnataka has over 34,000 temples that come under the Muzrai department.

    Though the temples are holding daily poojas and rituals, they are not open to public for now, with COVID-19 induced lockdown restrictions in place. Officials had recently told PTI that the department was planning to have a standard operating procedure (SOP) in place, that needs to be followed at temples in a post lockdown scenario, once they are opened for the public.

    Poojary said all temples will be opened and instructions have been given to take preventive measures and make necessary preparations to ensure social distancing before June 1.

    "I will discuss with officials and decide on what other measures should be taken so that things go on smoothly, ensuring safety of devotees," Poojary said.

    He also said that sevas in select 52 temples in the state can be booked online from Wednesday, and the chief minister has a given a go ahead for this.

    He clarified that all rituals at the temples like poojas and aartis will continue as per traditions, but booking for sevas that can be offered by devotees, can be done online from now on.

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    Such facilities for online booking of sevas are already available at certain temples and are quite popular, he pointed out. Recently,the Commissioner of Hindu religious institutions and charitable endowments had written to deputy commissioners of 15 districts, also executive officers and administrators of 'A' grade temples, seeking information on sevas offered at temples under their jurisdiction and those for which option can be provided for devotees to do advance booking online.

    This was aimed at development of app and web based software for the purpose of advanced booking of sevas, the letter said, adding conditional approval had been given to Spiritual Products Private Limited, Mysuru to develop both free of cost.

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