Pashupati opens for devotees after nine months of closureTemple trust says it lost millions due to the lockdown, business dependent on visitors also suffered.
After nine months of banning devotees entry, Pashupatinath temple is open for public from Wednesday.
The temple, considered one of the holiest shrines for Hindus, had remained closed since March 24, when the government imposed a nationwide lockdown after two cases of Covid-19 were reported in the country.
The Pashupati Area Development Trust announced the temple open for public worshipping after President Bidya Devi Bhandari organised a chhyama puja (forgiveness prayers) on Tuesday morning.
“We have opened the main temple for worshippers with tight screening for Covid-19,” said Pradeep Dhakal, member secretary at the trust.
The trust has allowed devotees to enter the main temple only from the western gate. Each devotee needs to maintain a social distance of five feet while staying in line and their body temperature is examined by thermal cameras installed at the gate.
“It’s mandatory for visitors to wear masks, and we have mobilised volunteers and security personnels to check if visitors are following protocols ,” said Dhakal.
Only a few visitors were seen at the temple on the first day of the reopening. “Only people living nearby visited the main temple. We would have opened more gates if there were more visitors,” said Dhakal.
According to the trust, before the pandemic, more than 20,000 people, most of them from India, would visit the temple every day. Dhakal said on Mondays and Saturdays the number would cross 30,000.
“There is no possibility for devotees from India to come to Pashupatinath these days,” said Dhakal.
With the closure of temples due to the pandemic, the shrine has lost over Rs 20 million per month in revenue it used to earn as “veti”, according to Dhakal. In the past nine months the temple lost Rs 180 million, he estimated.
As of last year, the trust has assets worth Rs 1.2 billion cash in different banks, 9.276kg gold, 316.58kg silver and 3,667 ropanis of land.
Many small businesses such as shops that rely on visitors remain closed. Many beggars and homeless living on the premises of Pashupati have also been deprived of alms. Apart from that dozens of priests and palm readers who would perform rituals for devotees are also out of work.
“We were jobless, now with the opening of the temple we hope to earn a little,” said Tika Prasad Gihimre, a palm reader, who used to tell people’s fortune on the banks of the Bagmati in Ramghat.