Kolkata: In a move to curb large gatherings in wake of Coronavirus pandemic, Belur Math, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission, has suspended offering “bhog prasad” to its devotees in the afternoon from Monday till April 14 for the first time.
In a statement, Swami Suvirananda, the general secretary of the Math and Mission, said, “Thousands of devotees and visitors come and receive ‘prasad’ in the afternoon. We have been forced to stop this service with a heavy heart, to prevent accidental spread of the virus.”
The Math was founded by Swami Vivekananda, the key disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, in 1935. It is located on the west bank of Hooghly River and is one of the significant institutions in West Bengal.
“Offering prayers to revered president Maharaj will remain suspended until further notice. Regarding Mantra-Diksha the devotees are requested to contact in person or over the phone 033-26545700 between 10.30 am to 11.30 am or 4.30 pm to 5.30 pm,” a statement issued by ‘Belur Math’ reads.
Meanwhile, Swami Suvirananda said that the move is among the various precautionary measures that the Math has taken to discourage “lakhs of devotees, tourists, local visitors” who visit Ma Sarada Sadabrata Bhawan in large numbers to “receive bhog Prasad” in the afternoon.
The Bhawan is a multi-storeyed hall located inside the Belur Math. It was constructed in 2016 to serve the rising number of devotees who turn up to have the ‘prasad’ every day at the Math.
Further, Swami Suvirananda said, “Offering ‘Bhog Prasad’ to visitors is a part of ‘nara-narayan seva’ (human-deity service) for us. But this time we cannot take any chance and with no other options we forced to take this decision.”
Notices were circulated all across the Math premises and visitors/devotees were asked to finish their prayer at Ramakrishna temple as soon as possible. For evening rituals, the Math administration barred entry of people inside the main temple.
Those who want to see the evening ‘aarti’ – they may sit in front of a giant display screen. However, no one can meet the president of the Math during this period.
Similar precautionary measures were also taken by Dakshineshwar Kali Temple management.
Secretary of the Dakshineshwar Kali temple, Kushal Chowdhury, said, “Our temple is open but we have taken several measures to combat the virus. We have kept out temple open but with several restrictions. This we have done for the safety and security of lakhs of tourists/visitors who come to our temple.”