The city of Kashi in Uttar Pradesh witnesses uncountable pilgrims from all across the world every year. The city is also called Varanasi which is the town famous for it’s old religious temple named, Kashi Vishwanath on the banks of river Ganga.
However, this year the scene is different than any other year. The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19 ), whose vaccine or medicine is the need for the hour, left the holy place empty. Devotees are asked to stay inside their homes and the door of the place of worship is now closed for more than fifty days.
Talking on how the Kashi Vishwanath temple is dealing with challenges amidst COVID-19 and going to cope up with norms of social distancing post lockdown, The Optimist News spoke to Vishal Singh, the CEO of Kashi Vishwanath temple.
Singh spoke about how temple authorities will utilize internet facilities to reach devotees and provide them darshan of Shiva and Parvati deities, which will gradually raise donation, eventhough people are not physically being able to come to the temple. “We are trying to create a new revenue stream by providing the facility of darshan, distribution of prashadam and perform pooja online.
Though physically, people will not be coming into the temple in numbers, online activities are being popularised among devotees who will ultimately lead to pouring in of donations and it will be used to continue welfare activities.” Said Vishal Singh.
CEO briefed on how the trust of the temple is helping the priests to be part of an organised sector. “Kashi Vishwanath had already changed the approach of a temple coming under an unorganized sector for paandas or the men who bring devotees for darshan. The Trust that runs Kashi Vishwanath temple had done a model which I think is quite successful. I think, and all other religious towns of the country should also repeat this practice.” Said the CEO.
“We have identified all the shastri’s and paandas, who were in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and earned by acting as middle men in an unorganized sector. However, now through the list, we are allocating different devotees and poojas to them through our application software on a random basis. Whatever dakshina they use to take otherwise by extracting money from people, now will be the part of a ticketing system which we are doing. From the amount collected from ticket sales, we put a certain part of the money into their bank accounts.” Added Singh.
75% of their livelihood have been streamlined in an almost organized way. In the coming days, the temple’s Trust is all set to educate the pujara in different languages, to make it easy for them to interact with all kinds of devotees coming from different parts of the globe. The Trust is also training priests professionally under the scheme for the Kashi Vishwanath temple from last two and half years.
Authorities of the holy shrine are waiting to have clear communication with the government post the lockdown, keeping in mind the safety of devotees. They are ready with all precautionary apparatus and material to monitor a person for COVID-19 symptoms before they enter the temple.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust had tried to touch all aspects of society, by providing a helping hand to them in this unprecedented crisis. “We have donated lakhs of rupees to the Prime Minister and Chief Minister’s relief funds, respectively. We are also feeding people daily both times of the day. We have already provided food packets and ration kits to more than two lakh needy people. We have also distributed personal hygiene and medical kits to women and we are running a continuously creative contest for children.” Explained Singh.
It is because of devotees and their selfless donation to religious places till date, the temple is counted as one of the significant reasons behind the smooth running of the shrine. When a person gets a feeling of helplessness, Kashi Vishwanath temple is makes sure to reach them with aid. All in all, the temple wants to serve people during the COVID-19 pandemic and they know that someday soon, devotees will pour into the temple premises for darshan.