820 ASI monuments including of places of worship set to reopen today

In Maharashtra, places of worship remain closed while in Kerala the decision of re-opening religious places has received mixed reactions

delhi temple

After the Government of India allowed the opening of places of worship amid rising coronavirus cases in the country on June 8, the Union Ministry of Culture Minister Prahlad Patel on Sunday approved the opening of 820 Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments, including those which have places of worship from June 8 onwards, The New Indian Express (TNIE) reported.

Announcing the decision in a tweet, Patel said that it was expected that all protocols of the Ministry of Health would be followed after the sites were reopened.



According to (TNIE), out of the 3,691 ASI-maintained monuments, which were closed from March 17, 2020 due to the coronavirus scare, the culture ministry has decided to open only those where religious events take place, such as Nila Mosque at Hauz Khas enclave, the Qutub archaeological area and the Lal Gumbad in Delhi.

However, media reports cite that 65 of such monuments which are in Maharashtra are unlikely to be opened due to the spiking cases of coronavirus in the state.  

The most such monuments are in Vadodara (77), followed by Chennai (75), Dharwad (73) and Bengaluru (69).

As part of ‘Unlock 1’, the Central Government had released Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for reopening of religious places which included guidelines that no physical offerings like Prasad / distribution or sprinkling of holy water was to be allowed, hand sanitizer dispenser and thermal screening at the entrance was mandatory, only asymptomatic persons are to be allowed, face covers are compulsory and large gatherings remain prohibited.



Places of worship to be opened in Meghalaya from June 14

Following the ‘Unlock 1’ guidelines, Conrad Sangma, CM Meghalaya, along with representatives from religious groups decided that the state would open religious places to the public starting June 14, 2020, The Telegraph reported.

Deputy CM Prestone Tynsong said that the draft SOPs are in place and were being enhanced upon after suggestions from religious leaders.

Noor Nongrum, Assistant General Secretaryof the Shillong Muslim Union said that their organization suggested that people doing thermal screening be trained and Reverend Hemanshu of the All Saints Church suggested that the Government gives clear figures of how many people could gather at the premises at a time and if the SOPs can be translated into local languages so that a wider base of people visiting places of worship understand them, tweeted DD News Shillong.



Religious places to remain closed in J&K

While the country is easing restrictions on places of worship all across India, the authorities of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) have said that religious places will remain closed in the Union Territory, reportedly owing to the rise in Covid-19 cases, reported The Tribune. The UT saw 620 new cases being reported on June 7, 2020.



Maharashtra undecided on opening religious places

In Maharashtra, the government has not yet taken a decision on opening religious places as part of the lockdown relaxations, the Economic Times reported. The publication reported some of the most famous temple trusts like the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple Trust in Mumbai and the Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Sarvajanik Ganpati Trust in Pune and the Vitthal Rukmini Trust Samiti in Pandharpur as saying that they have not received any communication or directives from the government in the matter. Maharashtra remains the worst Covid-19 affected state in the country.

Kerala government gets mixed reactions

Kerala is receiving mixed reactions from religious sects about the opening of places of worship, according to Manorama News. The Kerala Temple protection committee has asked the Kerala government to retract its decision of opening up places of worship as it would render the efforts of health workers futile. Instead the Devaswom Board shouldn’t open up temples like the Guruvayur Temple and Sabarimala Temple for the public and ask people to pray from home, the committee said.

Kerala currently has 1,906 active cases of Covid-19.

Churches under the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church have decided to remain closed till June 30, the Archbishop of the diocese Antony Kariyil has said. The administrative committees of the Palayam mosques in Thiruvananthapuram (102 Covid-19 cases), Malappuram (203 Covid-19 cases) and Kozhikode (102 Covid-19 cases) will also remain closed until further notices, Manorama News reported.



During the first four phases of the Covid-19 lockdown, all religious places had asked devotees to pray from home. While some churches conducted mass online, there were mosques who also conducted Eid namaz online as large religious congregations remained prohibited throughout the country to ensure the safety of the citizens.

While the decision of reopening places of worship seems to have been taken keeping public sentiments in mind, the bigger question is whether all authorities manning religious places will ensure continued sanitation and disinfection of the infrastructure and premises to keep the infection from commencing community transmission.


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