Karnataka govt lifts hold on prayers, festivals, directs ‘remedial rituals’ in temples

However, the order advised temple authorities to exercise caution as they go about their normal routine.

The Karnataka government has lifted its year-long ban on special prayers, car festivals and mass gatherings in temples that was in force across the state on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. Relaxing its hold on assembly and prayers at shrines, the government directed all temple authorities to hold “remedial rituals” for the ones they had to skip because of the lockdown rules last year.

Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department (Muzrai) issued an order, allowing all temples to hold religious fairs, festivals, car festivals and special poojas in a regular manner, starting Wednesday. However, the order advised temple authorities to exercise caution as they go about their normal routine.

In its order, the Muzrai department said temples should hold “remedial rituals” in line with their respective traditions, as atonement for missing out on various car festivals, poojas and other rituals for a year, before resuming regular rituals.

The order came on the request of the temple authorities as several shrines have started holding car festivals and special prayers from February. According to the circular issued by the commissioner of the Muzrai department, there was a demand from devotees to allow ‘utsava(s)’ (festivals) and meals at the temples as February is considered an auspicious month for holding religious events across the state.

The circular says temple authorities should follow all Covid-19 safety guidelines announced specifically by the Union government, state and district commissioners for holding festivals and special prayers. “Following the Covid-19 guidelines, temples can hold Rathotsava (Chariot/car festivals), Pavithrotsava, Brahma Rathotsava, Anna Dasoha (free food), Vishesha pooja (special prayers), distribution of Prasadam, and other services can be resumed like before,” the order states.

As Covid cases peaked in March 2020, the state government had imposed restrictions on the entry of devotees to temples as well as Nithya Pooja (regular prayers), free food, special prayers and distribution of ‘Prasadam’ (food offered to deities) and holy water.

However, in September, last year, the government allowed partial opening of temples, allowing entry to devotees while observing social distancing norms and adhering to other guidelines in place.

The state is home to over 34,000 temples run by the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Department. There are thousands more run by private trusts, organisations and individuals.

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