- In view of the coronavirus pandemic, state govts have restricted the gatherings at various holy places around the country on the occasion of Maha Shivratri
- In Odisha, Development Commissioner PK Jena has stated that the state government has restricted gatherings of over 500 people in festivals and melas
- The Maharashtra govt has announced that not more than 50 people should be present in a temple at any given time
Maha Shivratri, is a Hindu festival that devotees from Kashmir to Kanyakumari celebrate with zeal. The night of Lord Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati is commemorated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Magha month, according to the Hindu lunar calendar.
Due to the health crisis, the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, which normally attracts thousands of pilgrims and sadhus during the festival, has seen a decline in visitors this year.
Meanwhile, thousands of Shiva devotees gathered at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, to take a holy dip, as they do every year. According to legend, it is said that Lord Shiva released the mighty river from the locks of his hair, making it one of the most important Hindu pilgrimage centres.
On the occasion of Mahashivaratri, priests at Ujjain’s Mahakal Temple offered prayers and performed Lord Shiva’s ‘abhishek’. Priests were seen offering milk and honey to ‘Shivling,’ an iconic representation of Shiva, one of the Hindu triumvirate’s deities, in accordance with traditional rituals.
However, in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a variety of restrictions and guidelines have been enforced to ensure the safety of devotees praying on the holy day.
On Wednesday, the state governments of states issued guidelines for the festival’s celebration.
In the wake of the likelihood of large crowds on Mahashivratri on March 11, the Odisha government ordered all district administrations to ensure adherence to Covid-19 guidelines at various Shiv temples on Tuesday.
In a letter to all district collectors and municipal commissioners, Development Commissioner PK Jena stated that the state government has already limited gatherings of more than 500 people at festivals and melas.
“Within the temple premises, this should be applied. The administration can also enforce appropriate restrictions in order to prevent large-scale gatherings “he said.
Development Commissioner PK Jena also stated, “Since large gatherings on Mahashivratri have a high risk of spreading Covid-19 infections, Collectors and Municipal Commissioners can limit congregations/ gatherings to such number as may be felt acceptable given the situation and space available within such temples and their premises to gather, strictly adhering to the Covid-19 protocols.”
Any individual found in violation of the order will be charged under the Disaster Management Act of 2005 and other applicable laws, he said.
The Maharashtra government, on the other hand, has stated that 50 people should be present in a temple at any given time during the Mahashivratri celebrations on Thursday.
Trimbakeshwar Temple in Nashik and Babulnath Temple in Mumbai, however, will be closed to devotees on Maha Shivratri due to a rise in Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra.