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Keeping the faith – Cover Story News

The Mahabodhi temple in Bodhgaya where Siddhartha is said to have attained enlightenment in 623 BC is one of the most sacred sites in Buddhism. Today, it could pass off as a medical facility. Priests, temple employees and the 250-odd police personnel posted here move about with their faces covered with surgical masks.

Located 115 km south of Patna, the temple attracted nearly 500,000 tourists last year with arrivals peaking in March. But this year could be a washout. Global travel restrictions have seen thousands of devotees cancelling trips. The hospitality industry is the worst affected, the 70-odd hotels in the city are struggling to stay open.

The majority of visitors these days are locals. The few foreign tourists are those who were alre­ady in the country before India sus­pended all visas and flights from the UK and Europe. Footfalls are down by at least 20 per cent. The two entry gates of the temple are manned by medical teams. Thermal sensors have been installed and every visitor is scanned at the gate.

Work pressure is less. There are fewer people to attend to, but then there’s the lurking threat of an infection also, says Bhi­kku Dr Manoj, senior priest of the tem­ple. That said, global devotees have been dial­ling the priests to pray for them, he says.


With the pandemic scare all around, Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple was the first to close its doors in Maharashtra on March 16, followed by others like the Shirdi Sai Baba temple. While daily rituals are being followed, devotees are not allowed in.

The Venkateswara temple in Tirumala has, for the first time in its history, closed the temple tank, the Srivari Pushkarini. Some daily/ weekly rituals and religious events have also been cancelled.

In Kerala, the Sabarimala and Guruvayoor temples have put out advisories asking people to avoid visits, but the temple doors are still open.

In Varanasi, authorities have suspended the Ganga aarti, while in Mathura, the Vrindavan ISKCON temple has asked foreign devotees not to visit.

The popular Tsuglhakhang temple in Dharamshala Mcleodganj area is closed till April 15.

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