Mrunal Manmay Dash

Puri/Bhubaneswar: For devotees, the months of longing to witness Lord Jagannath is finally going to be over as the district administration of Puri took an in-principle decision on Friday to throw open the Singhadwar of Srimandir for devotees from 23 December, albeit with restrictions.

It may be mentioned here that the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration had already given a go-ahead for opening the 12th-century shrine a few days ago, but it had sent recommendation for final decision in this regard to the State government.

The decision to reopen the Srimandir came after demands from all quarters of society across the state.

Puri Collector, Balwant Singh made the announcement on Friday describing all the modalities of the darshan. The first two days after reopening, i.e January 23 & 24 will be reserved for the darshan of only Srimandir servitors and their families.

The subsequent seven days, from December 25-31 will be reserved for the residents of Puri. It will be followed by two-day closure of the temple from public entry, on New Year and January 2. A day after that on January 3, the gates of the shrine will be thrown open to all the devotees.

The devotees on the other hand have welcomed the decision wholeheartedly.

Sharing her delight over the announcement, a woman who could not stop herself from breaking down in front of the camera said, "It has been nine months, but it feels like nine years since we got a glimpse of our dearest Kalia Thakura."

Puri Collector Balwant Singh has said, "Adherance to the COVID guidelines is of paramount importance for us. Aadhaar card or Voter ID has been made mandatory for visitors of Puri wishing to get a darshan of the Trinity inside Srimandir between December 25-31."

Most importantly, the Temple will remain closed on December1 and 2 to get it prepared for the swarm of visitors expected to throng the Temple from 3 December onwards.

However, the district administration has barred entry of senior citizens above 65 years of age and children below ten years of age into Srimandir keeping the prevailing pandemic situation in mind.

As per the district Collector, a maximum of 5,000 devotees will be allowed inside Srimandir per day after the darshan for general public begins in January 3, 2021.

"We do not want to take any undue risks by mixing visitors from outside with residents of Puri in the initial 7-9 days. Moreover, the initial week will be an experiment for us to see how many people we can manage inside the Temple after maintaining strict COVID guidelines." said Singh.

Durga Dasmohapatra, the Secretary of Daitapati Nijog said, "We welcome the decision of closing down the Temple for two days on January 1 & 2. It will make time for the SJTA and District administration to ponder upon the probable mistakes made during the initial days."

(Edited By Suryakant Jena)