The Shree Jagannath Temple in Odisha's Puri reopened for devotees on Wednesday after nine months. Visitors from outside Puri, however, will have to produce COVID negative reports to enter the shrine.
The much-awaited 'darshan' of the sibling deities, Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath, began at 7am only for servitors and their family members amid strict adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines, officials said. The temple remained closed since March 20 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. This was for the first time in the history of the 12th century shrine that devotees were denied the opportunity for having 'darshan' of the deities, they said.
"It was a matter of luck for any human being to have darshan of the deities at Jagannath Dham. We are blessed to get that opportunity in the first phase," an elderly woman said after visiting the temple. Servitors and their family members have been allowed to have darshan in the first phase from December 23-25, while residents of the Puri municipality area will get the opportunity from December 26-31.
The temple will be opened to general devotees from outside Puri from January 3, Collector Balwant Singh. He said devotees are being allowed to enter the temple after scrutiny of identity proof, hand sanitisation and mandatory wearing of masks.
The temple, however, will again remain closed on January 1 and 2 in view of the possible rush of devotees on New Year, the official said. The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA), in an SOP for general devotees, mentions that all visitors are required to produce a COVID-19 negative certificate (RT-PCR/RAT) of tests done within 96 hours prior to their visit to the temple.
SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar said devotees will enter through the Singhadwara and exit through the northern gate. As per the SOP, no offering of flowers, tulsi (basil leaves) and other similar items will be allowed, he said.
Asked why the residents of Puri need not produce COVID-19 negative certificates, the official said, "The administration is aware of the coronavirus status of the local people.".