BENGALURU: Amidst the surge of COVID cases in Karnataka over the last 10 days week, at least 10 jaathres (fairs) have been held at various religious places across the state, with each event witnessing scores of visitors violating COVID guidelines and restrictions issued by the government. However, despite the urgent state of affairs requiring swift action, officials appear helpless.
According to the latest orders by the Chief Secretary, while regular and daily puja and worship are permitted at temples, religious gatherings and processions are banned. But over the last 10 days, many melas have been held, while on the other hand, temples have been closed, prohibiting entry to devotees. Meanwhile, annual jaathres are taking place outside temple premises too.
On Monday, close to 50,000 people had gathered near the Banashankari Temple at Badami in Bagalkot district. Though it was permitted that a much smaller number of people could participate in the annual rituals, many came to be a part of the rathotsava.
Accordingly, many arrived from far-off places and gathered at the venue, with the crowd swelling to a far greater proportion, which the police were struggling to control. The Banashankari Temple, which has a large following, was shut since January 9, 2022, as per protocol.
Similar scenes were noticed at Huligemma Temple in Koppal, where over one lakh people had gathered, and there was a long queue for darshan. Even at Mailara Temple in Hoovinahadagali taluk, thousands of people gathered.
Besides, the rathotsava held near the Srikrishna Temple in Udupi too witnessed a huge crowd of visitors violating COVID norms, as was the case at the Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud near Mysuru, which also saw a massive crowd.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, a senior official from the Endowment Department said that in Karnataka, there are more than one lakh temples, of which, 34,563 come under the government. "During January-March, at many places, jaathres and rathotsavas are organised, including at private temples. We have no control over them. Also, it is the DCs who have to take action against such violation of COVID norms," the official said.
In some places, local MLAs themselves participate in such events. "The police and officials are doing their best to control the situation, but sometimes, people should also understand,’" opined the official, adding that the issue is sensitive.
The state witnessed a sharp increase in daily Covid cases on Tuesday, at 41,457 positives. Meanwhile, Endowment Minister Shashikala Jolle was unavailable for comment.
Recent religious gatherings
Banashankari Rathotsava at Badami taluk, Bagalkot district
Ambadevi Rathotsava at Sindhanuru taluk, Raichur district
Huligemma Jaathre at Koppal taluk, Koppal district
Maiylara temple at Hoovinahadagali taluk, Vijayanagara district
Sakuna Ranganathaswamy Jaathre at Kadur taluk, Chikkamagaluru district