The News Agency of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness

Swine Flu Fear Keeps People Away from Temples Too

By: for Express India on Aug. 15, 2009

Pune - A strong believer in Lord Hanuman, businessman Amar Ludhrani visits Hanuman Temple in Camp every Saturday. It is a practice that hasn’t taken a backseat, even when he has the most important business meeting lined up. But with the compounding swine flu scare, Ludhrani doubts that he might have to break the practice he has followed for last 15 years, without fail.

Because, like schools and multiplexes, even temples come under the category where people come in close contact with each other, which increases the possibilities of contracting the virus. Thus, despite August being a month full of religious activities, city temples are witnessing an unusually lesser number of people visiting these days.

Chandrashekhar Madhukar Babhale, a priest at Shree Parvati Nandan Ganpati Devsthan, located off University Road, said, “The inflow of devotees has reduced drastically, especially in the last two weeks. Even on last Saturday, although it was a Chaturthi , where otherwise the temple used to be packed, there were relatively less visitors.”

The fear of catching the virus is so severe that even the fact that the shravan is observed till August 20, is not able to draw people to the temples. According to Ashok Godse, secretary, Dagdu Seth Temple, “Only the local city-based people who visit the temple regularly are coming, whereas those who are not from Pune, but used to visit at this time of the year, are keeping away.”

The Hanuman Temple in Camp, where people used to wait in a long queue for darshan on Saturdays, it was conspicuously less crowded last Saturday. And the ones who visited the temple were wearing masks. The priest at the temple, Dayaram Shastri feels that the faith in the God is still there but the magnitude of the panic is larger.

At the famous ISKCON temple, where till last year, around 70,000 people used to visit during Sri Krishna Janmashtami , which falls on August 14, the management committee is expecting only 5,000-10,000 devotees. As a precautionary measure, the committee has decided to cancel the elaborate cultural events. “We want to co-operate with the government and at the same time respect the devotional sentiments of the people. So we have organised simple darshan , for which we have requested people to come with masks,” said Chaitanya Charan Das, chief spokesperson, ISKCON temple. Had it not been for the H1N1 fear, the temple committee was expecting around one lakh people at the temple for Janmashtami.

However, there are a few, like Amrinder Chawla, who prefer taking precautions rather than staying away from religious places. “I have been going to Hollywood Gurudwara since childhood.

But these days, I make sure to wear a protective mask and wash my hands before and after visiting the Gurudwara. I intend to continue to do so, till the situation returns to normal,” said, Chawla, an HR professional.

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