KATHMANDU: When Neeru Sharma, 40, of Gokarna, used to visit Pashupatinath Temple every Monday morning in the Nepali month of Shrawan (mid-July to mid-August) during previous years, she felt blessed.
This time, thousands of devotees like Neeru feel deprived of the bliss they used to get after visiting the Pashupatinath Temple as it has remained shut for the visitors since the enforcement of lockdown meant to curb the coronavirus pandemic.
The Pashupatinath area that used to be crowded with the pilgrims in this holy month to worship Lord Shiva, looks deserted this time.
After the imposition of the lockdown, all four doors of Pashupatinath Temple remain closed. A few visitors who go to pay homage to Lord Pashupatinath return from the main entrance at the temple courtyard.
The Pashupati Area Development Fund (PADF) sources inform that only regular prayers are performed these days.
This month has five Mondays as per the lunar calendar though there are four Mondays as per the solar calendar this time. The Monday of July 20 is the third Monday of this month.
In ancient Sanatan culture, all religious and cultural activities are carried out according to the lunar calendar. The month of Shrawan ends on August 3 this year.
This time the first day of Shrawan had been a Monday of the first day after no moon day known as Krishnapakshya Pratipada and the last day according to the lunar calendar lies on Monday of the Full Moon day also known as Shuklapakshya Purnima.
Devotees regard such coincidence as of special religious significance.
Thousands of devotees like Neeru feel disappointed not getting a chance to pay homage to their highly revered Lord Shiva.
Bhimeshwor Temple of Dolakha, who remained shut down for 115 days, has been opened for devotees from July 18.
Devotees of Pashupatinath are waiting impatiently for those days when the doors of the temple would be opened for all.
“We understand that the government enforced the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic,” Neeru told Khabarhub.
“Gradually, all other sectors are opening, and we wish the government would open Pashupatinath temple abiding by the coronavirus spread prevention measures,” she quipped.
Gokarneshwor Temple, another pilgrimage site in Kathmandu is next to Neeru’s residence. She goes there regularly. This Mahadev Temple is also crowded in Shrawan, but Neeru feels disappointed not getting a chance to offer prayers at Pashupatinath Temple.
Hindu women regard the holy month of Shrawan as a time to pay homage to Lord Shiva and observe various vratas offering prayers to Lord Shiva.
They offer special prayer to Lord Shiva on Mondays. Ladies wear green bangles and green crystal beads called pote. They also put on mehendi artistically on their hands.
Thousands of devotees visit Kathmandu to pay homage to Lord Pashupatinath from Kathmandu and outside the valley alike. Indian devotees are also seen in remarkable numbers, however, this time the area is sans people, deserted.
We will do as per the government directives: PADT
The Pashupati Area Development Fund is still uncertain whether the Pashupatinath Temple will be opened for the visitors within this month i.e. by mid-August.
“The government has not formally opened lockdown in the crowded areas,” Dr. Pradeep Dhakal, the Member Secretary of PADT told Khabarhub, adding, “Provided the government directs us to open, we will abide by it.”
As of now, the lockdown is extended up to July 22. It’s not clear whether it will get expanded further.
He added that PADT is capable of making necessary arrangements provided the government grants permission to open it abiding by the security measures.
According to Dhakal, they have discussed the measures to be taken to prevent the COVID-19 transmission to the devotees and the preparation is nearly over.
“We will ensure that the social distancing standard set by WHO is maintained, we have made the circle in the distance of one meter,” Dr. Dhakal said.
Dhakal further added that sanitizer will be provided to the devotees at the main entrance, and the entrance and the exit will be separate as well.
Wearing masks and maintaining physical distance while queuing will be made mandatory to prevent transmission.
Despite PADT’s preparation, the opening of the temple is still uncertain and depends on the government’s decision.