The historic Pashupatinath temple of Nepal, the holiest Hindu shrine of the 5th century, opened for pilgrims on Wednesday after being closed for nine months due to the pandemic of COVID-19. Pashupatinath Temple is Nepal’s largest temple complex which extends to both sides of the Bagmati River and sees thousands of Nepali and Indian worshippers daily.
As the Nepal government enforced a lockdown in March to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, the entry of devotees inside the temple premises was forbidden. Special security steps were taken to open the temple on the outskirts of Kathmandu, said Pradeep Dhakal, head of the Pashupati Temple Area Trust.
On Wednesday, hundreds of devotees queued at the southern entrance gate of the complex, waiting to join the revered temple of Shiva. Forced to wear a face mask, the devotees need to sanitize their hands at the main entrance before going through a separate room equipped with automatic temperature recording cameras.
To implement the two-meter distance between the entities, there are markers on the ground en route to the main temple complex. Before going into the main temple building, the devotees need to wash their hands with liquid soap. In the time passing through all the health protection protocols, the devotees are allowed to give prayers, Dhakal said.
While the temple was open to visitors, the special puja, hymn singing, and ceremonial rituals will not commence immediately, he said. Gradually, Dhakal said, we will begin practicing the special puja, singing hymns, and other rites that have been suspended by implementing health protection procedures.
Atonement worship was provided on Tuesday at the main entrance to the temple, requesting salvation as owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the shrine had to be shut down for nine months. Under the leadership of the World Hindu Federation, some religious groups carried out symbolic protests in the Pashupati city, claiming the devotees were unable to visit the temple for worship as it had remained closed for months.
According to the Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal’s coronavirus tally reached the bleak mark of 250,000 on Tuesday. More than 1,700 people in the world have died from contagion.