Ramakanta Biswas

Bhubaneswar: Top tourist and religious sites in Odisha including Sun Temple in Konark and Shanti Stupa (peace pagoda) at Dhauli on Sunday shut their doors for visitors as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of novel-Coronavirus that has already claimed more than 5900 deaths globally. Similarly, a slew of restrictions have been imposed in Puri Srimandir, the shrine of Lord Lingaraj in Bhubaneswar in the wake of the viral outbreak.

The district administration of Puri has ordered shutdown of Konark temple for the next seven days as a precaution against the spread of Coronavirus. The light and sound show near the 11th-century monument has also been stopped till April 1. Tourists buses plying to and from Puri and Konark remained off the roads from Sunday following a directive by the district collector. Due to closure of the site, livelihood of traders, handicrafts businessmen who used to earn from the local tourism have been severely affected.

Today, a high-level meeting of Chhattisa Niyog was held in the presence of SJTA Chief Krishan Kumar, Puri Collector Balwant Singh and the servitors of Lord Jagannath in which decision was taken to clamp restrictions on the devotees.

As per the decision, servitors will have to wear masks inside the Temple premises while serving the Lord and maintain a safe distance of at least two metres from the devotees. The servitors have also been asked to maintain necessary hygiene inside the temple like washing hands at a regular interval and inform the authorities if they come across any devotee with fever or any other symptoms of Coronavirus infection.

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As far as the devotees are concerned, the ChhattisaNiyog has laid out directives for them to follow too. From now on, the devotees will have to furnish their personal and travel details in a form before entering into the Temple.

Moreover, the devotees are barred to congregate anywhere inside the premises and they will have to enter Srimandir in queue ensuring a gap of at least 2 meters. The guidelines willalso prohibit them from touching the ‘Garuda Stambha’, ‘ArunaStambha’ and other deities inside the temple.

SJTA Chief, Krishan Kumar said, “We have barricaded both the pillars (Garuda and ArunaStambha) to keep the devotees away from them. The restrictions will be in effect till 31 March.”

Speaking on the precautionary measures taken by the district administration, Puri Collector, Balwant Singh said, “We have advised people to avoid going to beach. We are doing health check-up of all the foreign nationals in Puri on a routine basis.

In addition, adequate precautionary measures have been adopted at Lingaraj temple in the State Capital to prevent spread of the Coronavirus infection.

Read More: Coronavirus: Odisha Restricts Tourist Movement In Puri  

According to sources, Dhauli Shanti Stupa in the outskirts of Bhubaneswar which attracts thousands of tourists every day will remain closed for visitors till March 31. Visitors have been asked not to visit the site until further order. Similarly, the Khandagiri and Udaygiri caves in Bhubaneswar will also remain out of bounds for tourists till the period.

“Many visitors from the State and outsides come to the tourist sites. If anyone of them has symptom of Coronavirus, he/she may infect other persons. Therefore, as a precautionary measure we have asked visitors not to visit the sites,” said Khurda Collector Sitanshu Rout.

“The ban will continue till March 31 and further course of action will be determined after a thorough review of the situation,” he added.

Similarly, a ban has also been imposed on all gatherings during Chaitra Parva at Tara Tarini shrine in Berhampur. The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Ganjam collector Vijay Amruta Kulange.

“The festival will be organised in a small scale and huge gatherings will not be allowed. Only the rituals of the locals will be allowed. Hygiene practices like masks and hand wash facilities for servitors will be made available. Besides, handwashing and drinking water facilities for visitors will be made available,” Kulange said.

Speaking about the precautions, Pramod Kumar Panda, secretary of Tara Tarini Development Council said, “The rituals of goddess Tara Tarini will be conducted as per the tradition. However, 'Mundan' (shaving of hair of newborn babies) which witness huge rush and transportation facilities for devotees have been suspended.”