The temple managements claim that it has become quite difficult to pay salaries to staff.
PRAYAGRAJ: As the two-month long lockdown has affected income of temples, the head priests and management of several city-based prominent temples, including Maa Kalyani Devi and Takshkeshwarnath temple have sought grants from the state government to run their expenditures.
Apart from extending support to lockdown, the temple managements claim that it has become quite difficult to pay salaries to staff, and the Brahmin priests, performing Vedic rituals like yajna, puja anushthan etc are the worst sufferers who are now fighting for their survival.
Chief priest of Maa Kalyanai Devi temple, Pandit Shyamji Pathak told TOI, “As all temples are closed since the lockdown was enforced, it has become difficult to manage daily temple’s routine activities. A whopping amount of Rs 30,000 was spent monthly on workers’ salaries for daily essential works like cleaning and decoration of temple. As the source of income has been affected, other priests have started returning to their native villages”.
Pathak said, “Ahead of Navratra, we had spent around Rs 1.50 lakh on decoration of the temple but when lockdown was enforced and devotees were not allowed to visit temple, we somehow managed to run all activities without any source of income for two months. But now it has become difficult to manage the routine activities”. However, temple authorities are daily holding daily puja, aarti, shringar and bhog of goddess Kalyani, he added.
Most of the priests in temple premises, who usually earn their livelihood through yajna, special anusthan, navratra paath, have gone back to their villages after finding no source of income. Some of them have even decided to quit and take new job for their survival, Pathak further said. He has urged the central and the state governments to come forward and take care of the temples.
Meanwhile, chief priest of Takshkeshwarnath temple, Ravi Shankar said, “We have even tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and chief minister Yogi Adityanath to take steps for better care of temple’s daily activities during the lockdown period but failed to get any response”. Lakhs of Brahmin priests, who usually earn their livelihood by performing various rituals are finding it difficult to manage their livelihood, he added.
While temple authorities and chief priests are somehow arranging daily routine work in the absence of any source of income (donations) but are finding it difficult to pay salaries of staff and other works.
“Shrines are not mere places of worship but support many others like temple staff”, said priest RK Tiwari of Hanuman temple in trans- Ganga area of the city”. Temples also play a major role in drawing tourists, he added.
Not only priests and their staff but even flower vendors whose livelihood depends of temples too are experiencing the worst economic crisis as fallout of the lockdown.
The priests have urged the government to provide enhanced relief to them and the temple staff besides waiving power and water bills of the temples with low income.
Meanwhile, the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad (ABAP)—the apex decision-making body of 13 akharas representing thousands of seers and saints–had last month written to the Prime Minister, Union home minister and UP chief minister to allow reopening of temples in the state.