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Devbrat Patnaik

Bhubaneswar: Even as the world bid goodbye to a year mired in a global pandemic, in Odisha, hundreds and thousands of people who usually stood in front of the temples in queue to begin every year with the divine blessings, are a disappointed lot the way first morning of 2021 started.

The fact that the unlocking of many religious shrines for the general public is still some days away, has made many uneasy to even think that a year that spelt doom has gone. They have entered January, but on a bleak note.

What has affected the sentiments of the devotees is all the major shrines have put invisible 'no entry' boards outside, for the general public for the first 2-3 days of the New Year in anticipation of mass congregation.

After a nine-month hiatus, Srimandir - the abode of Mahaprabhu Jagannath in Puri, and Lingaraj Temple in Bhubaneswar reopened. While family members of the servitors and Puri town residents were allowed to catch a glimpse of the Holy Trinity in a graded manner till the 31st December, general public darshan at Puri Jagannath temple will kick off on January 3, 2021.

[caption id="attachment_493535" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Jagannath Temple, Puri[/caption]

Lingaraj Temple, the famous 11th century shrine in the State capital, also reopened for the family members of the servitors. As per decision, the residents of the temple city will get the opportunity to have darshan of the Lord from January 3. The temple will finally be thrown open to public from January 6. A few days ago, the Khordha administration mentioned that all religious institutions in the district are allowed to reopen from January 3, 2021 subject to certain conditions.

[caption id="attachment_436237" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Lingaraj Temple, Bhubaneswar[/caption]

In Ganjam district, the administration has decided to reopen the famous Tara Tarini shrine for public from January 3 following discussions with servitors of the shrine.

[caption id="attachment_504901" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Taratarini-Temple Tara Tarini Temple, Ganjam[/caption]

All religious places in Koraput district reopened for devotees on December 30; however; Collector Madhusudan Mishra decided to keep the shrines out of bounds for public on December 31, January 1 and 2.

Quite similar was the scenario in Jajpur district which is home to famous Biraja temple. The temple reopened on December 29 and darshan of deity was allowed between 6 AM and 5 PM till 31st. However, the district Collector informed that the temple will remain closed on January 1,2,3 over apprehensions of large congregation of devotees.

[caption id="attachment_504221" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Odisha: Biraja Temple To Reopen From Dec 29 Biraja Temple, Jajpur[/caption]

All religious institutions in Mayurbhanj district including the Baripada Jagannath Temple will reopen from January 5 with strict adherence to Covid-19 guidelines, Baripada sub-collector P Anwesha Reddy has informed.

The famous Akhandalamani Temple at Aradi in Bhadrak district also reopened in a phased manner. Residents of around four panchayats in the vicinity of the Aradi Temple were allowed darshan on December 30 and 31, but the temple will be thrown open for the public from January 3 after two days of closure on January 1 and 2. From Jan 3, all devotees will be allowed to have darshan of the Lord between 7 AM and 5 PM, Bhadrak sub-collector Pitambar Samal said.

[caption id="attachment_504543" align="aligncenter" width="750"] Akhandalamani Temple, Aradi[/caption]

While in many districts, local residents sounded upbeat following grant of permission to seek blessings of the deities, others feel the 2021 beginning has been dampened. Praying at home, they are hurt emotionally.

A devotee from Berhampur, speaking to odishatv.in, said, “Every year, I make sure my whole family is in Puri on the first of January to take blessings of Kalia Thakura but now the Jagannath temple has been closed for us due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Our new year will begin the day we are allowed to enter Srimandir. We will have to wait and we will, as the guidelines in place do not guarantee a visit for all devotees on 3rd January.”

Many devotees who had come to Puri from far-off places offered prayers from outside Singhadwar of Srimandir as all entrances were shut.

[caption id="attachment_489748" align="aligncenter" width="750"]Puri Devotee Praying At Jagannath Temple[/caption]

The denizens of the temple city are no happy either.

“Everyone is taking mandatory precautions. It has been nine long months that we have not visited Lingaraj temple. The authorities should have planned something to open the temple portals at least today, maybe they think we are still oblivious to Covid protocols. Devotees can offer prayers by maintaining social distancing and wearing masks. Keeping us away from the Lord for this long is unwelcoming, only thing I could do is observe fast, and pray at home,” said Madan Mahapatra, a devotee.

To preserve the religious beliefs, a million or even more had planned to take darshan of the deities on Day 1 of New Year 2021 considering it highly significant and auspicious, but the delay in temple unlock has made them more apprehensive about how the year will unfold for them.

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