Temples, churches mosques and other worship centres in Karnataka, closed for over two months due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown, will be opened for public from June 1, making the southern state the first in the country to allow devotees in shrines ever since the curbs kicked in.
The national lockdown enforced by the Centre to stem the spread of Coronavirus since March 25, and in its fourth leg now, is slated till May 31.
"We are waiting for guidelines from the central government but we have to live with the coronavirus and we want to open temples, mosques and churches in the state from June 1," Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa told reporters.
He added that the religious institutions will not be discriminated against and will be allowed to open together.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Yediyurappa, he said the plan is to allow all 'sevas' (rituals) at the temples once they open, but depending on the situation, they may limit it to a few.
"We will decide on it," he added.
According to the CM, as trains, flights and vehicular movements have started, and hotels likely to resume functioning shortly, several devotees have been demanding opening of temples to offer prayers.
"The temples will be opened to offer pooja and daily rituals, we are not permitting temple fairs and events," the minister said.
Karnataka has over 34,000 temples that come under the Muzrai department.
Though the temples are holding daily poojas and rituals, they are not open to the public for now, with lockdown restrictions in place.
Officials had recently said that the department was planning to have a standard operating procedure (SOP) in place, which needs to be followed at temples in a post-lockdown scenario, once they are opened for the public.
Kota Srinivas Poojary, Minister of Muzrai Department, said all religious institutions will be opened and instructions have been given to take preventive measures and make necessary preparations to ensure social distancing before June 1.
"I will discuss with officials and decide on what other measures should be taken so that things go on smoothly, ensuring safety of devotees," Poojary said.
He also said that sevas in select 52 temples in the state can be booked online from Wednesday, and the chief minister has given a go-ahead for this. He clarified that all rituals at the temples like poojas and aartis will continue as per traditions, but booking for sevas that can be offered by devotees, can be done online from now on.
Such facilities for online booking of sevas are already available at certain temples and are popular, he pointed out.
Recently, the Commissioner of Hindu religious institutions and charitable endowments had written to deputy commissioners of 15 districts, also executive officers and administrators of 'A' grade temples, seeking information on sevas offered at temples under their jurisdiction and those for which option can be provided for devotees to do advance booking online.
This was aimed at development of app and web based software for the purpose of advanced booking of sevas, the letter said, adding conditional approval had been given to Spiritual Products Private Limited, Mysuru to develop both free of cost.