The coronavirus outbreak, with a sharp increase in numbers, will change the experience of visiting religious places in the country. Not only will the crowds be gone, making offerings and receiving prasad, vermillion points, or holy water will be a strict no-no. There should also be no physical singing and only recorded music should be played to the extent possible, the Center said in its new security guidelines issued today.
All of the country’s most popular shrines, from Sabarimala in the south to Vaishnodevi in the north, had closed their doors to the public days before the country’s closure was announced on March 25.
After more than two months of confinement, religious sites will open this month in most states. Many states have already consulted guidelines. Others are making preparations for grand openings.
The central guidelines issued today underscored the need to continue the use of masks and social distancing as part of security measures. In advocating separate entrances and exits for visitors, the guidelines also stated that devotees must maintain a physical distance of at least 6 feet at all times when queuing to enter.
Only asymptomatic persons may enter and should wash their hands and feet with soap and water before entering the facilities of any religious site, according to the guidelines. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own.
Touching statues, idols, icons, or holy books is not permitted. “No physical offerings such as Prasad or distribution or sprinkling of holy water etc. will be allowed within the religious site,” the guidelines said, in view of the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus.
As far as possible, recorded music or devotional songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, according to guidelines.
The blocking guidelines had expressly prohibited religious gatherings and other occasions when a crowd could gather, as part of security measures against infection. Large gatherings are still prohibited and religious sites have been asked to stagger the entry of visitors.