A decline in the number of people visiting temples in the city has adversely impacted the functioning of the religious places. While the temples managed by Telangana Endowment Department (ED) are functioning normally, the smaller temples which rely on offerings by devotees are having a hard time.
“Only 10-12 persons are visiting the temple a day though it is open between 6 a.m and 11 a.m and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Our temple is under the control of the ED since 2014 so we get regular salaries,” says Ramacharyulu, the main priest at the centuries-old Kishenbagh temple.
A visit to the temple is a surreal experience for devotees as they are not allowed to make offerings of flowers or coconuts.
“Devotees can pray but there is restriction on archana (offering) or abhishekams (special puja) or tirtham (offering of holy water). We cannot take chances,” says Shyam Sundar, an ED official at a small temple in Gudimalkapur.
The collection of money from offerings used to range between ₹50,000 and ₹75,000 per month, but now that has plummeted from the time the temple reopened to visitors on June 8. A list of Standard Operating Procedures is tacked to the entrance of the temple.
“We have started online puja but visiting the temple and feeling the air of spirituality is different. We miss devotees who used to throng this temple. We, however, are not affected financially as our salaries are taken care of by the temple trust,” says Chaitanya, who leads prayers at the Jagannath Temple on Road no 12 Banjara Hills. The temple is administered by the Kalinga Cultural Trust.
Other smaller temples which depend on community trusts and patrons are finding it difficult to manage their financial affairs. “We are getting our salary but we know the financial status of the trust. Only a sprinkling of people are visiting our temple,” says a priest at a Sai Baba temple which used to see droves of devotees on Thursdays waiting with coconuts, flowers and prayers on their lips.
On Friday, as married women observed Varalakshmi Vratam celebrated according to the Hindu calendar month of Shravan, the subtle shift in the nature of faith due to COVID-19 pandemic was evident. Instead of women visiting homes and exchanging tambulam in the neighbourhood, most women stayed at home and did puja.