Once thronging with believers, Delhi’s temples, gurdwaras, churches and mosques have fallen silent. The Jhandewalan temple, which usually sees a footfall of 50,000 during Navratri, is now vacant. Around 12 Pujaris work in shifts to do the Havan, Shringar Seva, Aarti and Poojas, but mehndi service or chaat for fasts this year. At the gurdwaras, “the priest and Kirtaniyas come, do the Prakash ceremony in the morning and Sukhasan in the evening”, according to Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee.
At Chandni Chowk’s Fatehpuri Masjid too, the imam, Muezzin and a couple of mosque residents perform the regular Namaz. “Everyone else has been asked to stay home,” says the Shahi Imam, Mufti Mohammad Mukarram Ahmad. This has never happened in his memory, except for the curfews after the Babri Masjid demolition and the communal tensions in 1984 and 1987.
The congregations may be scattered, but they are bound together in spirit and by technology. All religious institutions are relying on telecasts and livestreams to conduct regular activities. The gurdwaras have Time TV and PTC Simran.
The temples broadcast their aartis on Sadhana, Ishwar, Rudraksh and other channels, says Kulbhushan Ahuja, Secretary, Jhandewalan temple trust. Iskcon relays its pravachans through Hare Krishna TV and YouTube channel Mayapur TV.
The Catholic church has been using Facebook and You-Tube for Eucharistic celebrations, apart from Shalom and Madha TV. “On March 27, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary plenary indulgence and the Urbi et Orbi (the city and the world) blessing,”says Father Stanley Kozhichira of the Delhi archdiocese. “The miraculous healing crucifix used during the 1322 Black Plague was brought to St Peter’s Square. He walked alone in the rain, praying for all of us and was watched live by millions of people across the world.”
Indians tend to give back to society through religious organisations, and the curtailment of religious activities has meant a loss of Rs 14-15 crore monthly for the gurdwaras, points out Sirsa, adding that the salaries of over 5,000 employees depend on these donations.
(To be continued)
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