Kerala’s famous Guruvayur temple has been closed to devotees from Saturday amidst fears of a deteriorating Covid situation in the Thrissur district, which the temple town is a part of. The closure comes just four days after the temple was opened to worship by devotees.
Weddings scheduled for the day will be allowed, subject to Covid protocols. As per the earlier decision, 60 weddings were allowed per day in the hall outside the temple, a favourite venue for weddings.
The situation in Thrissur has been causing concern as there has been a steady increase in the number of new cases, with 14 cases reported on Friday. There have also been a number of cases of infection spreading through primary contracts, although not necessarily due to the opening of the temple.
Health workers in the district have been facing increasing risk of infection through contacts, with five new cases being added on Friday. Four new hot spots have been added to the district, where the authorities had at one stage considered a complete lockdown, but later decided against it.
A review meeting held under the minister in charge of the district stopped short of describing the situation as alarming, but expressed serious concern at the increasing threat to health workers. Markets in the district would be closed for two days in a week for disinfection operations.
The deteriorating situation provided an excuse for the authorities to close the Guruvayur temple as reopening of the temples had become a highly sensitive political issue, with the BJP and Hindu groups opposing the move as the managements of most churches and mosques volunteered to keep their places of worship closed to public access in view of the risk of community infection.
A day earlier, it was decided not to go ahead with the reopening of the famous hill shrine of Sabarimala, which was supposed to reopen on June 14 as per the earlier decision. Both Guruvayur and Sabarimala temples are under the management of the government-appointed Devaswom Board.
The plan to reopen the two temples even as the Christian and Muslim community leaders opted to keep their places of worship closed had led to charges that the government was playing a dangerous game of exposing the devotees to the risk of infection, making Sabarimala and Guruvyaur hotspots of infection similar to the Nizamuddin mosque in Delhi.
BJP and the Hindu saw this as a move to bring discredit to the two most famous temples of Hindus in the same way as the headquarters of Tablighi Jamaat group had brought blame on the Muslim community in general.
The Pinarayi Vijayan-led government has been keen to avoid a controversy similar to the one relating to the entry of women of all ages to Sabarimala, which the ruling front had to pay dearly for in the Lok Sabha elections in the state.
So when the tantri of Sabarimala recommended going back on the reopening of the temple in view of the risk to devotees, the government accepted it with both hands. This was in sharp contrast to the government approach in the women’s entry issue, in which it had chosen a path of confrontation with the tantric, who is supposed to be in charge of all spiritual aspects of the temple, while the Devaswom Board, always toeing the government line, was in charge of administrative issues.