LUCKNOW: At a time when Ayodhya is being decked up and preparations for August 5 Bhoomi Pujan event are going on round the clock on a war footing, the deadly coronavirus has struck a priest and 16 cops on duty at the Ram temple site where the mega event has to take place.
Assistant priest (sahayak pujari) Pradeep Das and 16 personnel of Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) have tested positive for the deadly virus on Thursday. They have been quarantined and the santization of the entire premises is on.
Though the mega Bhoomi Pujan for the commencement of Ram temple construction would be held in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5, the rituals will start from August 3 at the site in the temple town.
Acharya Pradeep Das is junior to Mahant Satyendra Das, the head priest at Lord Ram’s temporary abode which is a pre-fabricated bullet-proof fibre structure. Here, the deity was relocated to on March 25 and would rest till the completion of temple construction. In fact, Mahant Satyendra Das has four disciples who assist him in the daily rituals at the temple. Acharaya Pradeep Das is one of them.
For the ceremony on August 5, 11 priests from Varanasi and Ayodhya will perform the puja. Pradeep Das, the priest who tested positive, is not part of this group of 11.
With so many people associated with the temple site testing positive, the COVID threat is now looming large over the mega even of August 5 in which besides PM Modi, around 200 other dignitaries are likely to take part.
The Trust has decided to get the entire Ram Janmabhoomi campus sanitised on a daily basis. “There is nothing to worry about. One of the priests who performs daily rituals at the temple site has tested positive. The entire campus will be sanitised,” said Mahant Kamal Nayan Das, successor-designate to Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, chairman of the Trust.
Prominent among those who likely to visit Ayodhya for Bhoomi Pujan are 50 most-revered seers and saints from different parts of the country and 50 political dignitaries including former Deputy PM LK Advani, Dr. MM Joshi, Uma Bharti, UP’s former CM Kalyan Singh, and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, some cabinet ministers and a few CMs. Rest 100 invitees may be inclusive of social figures, industrialists, and others.
The temple trust has sent a list of 200 invitees to the PMO for approval and if the sources are to be believed, 125 are likely to get the nod. As per the arrangement, while two fire and water-proof pandals were being erected for the PM and other VVIPs, four blocks with a seating capacity of 50 each are being designed at the Pujan site to accommodate the invites as per the COVID protocol.