Ahmedabad, Oct. 1: Hundreds of pilgrims waited for hours outside the gates of the Swaminarayan temple today only to be told that the formal reopening had been postponed by a week.
Security personnel at the gates told the devotees the temple would open on October 7, the first day of Navratri.
Temple authorities say the opening has been deferred because the “time is not right”, but sources say security forces are not satisfied with the clearing operations inside the temple. The forces, they say, fear that there might still be stray grenades scattered around the sprawling 23-acre complex.
The authorities had announced through the media that all the rituals and formalities for a Tuesday opening had been completed and that pilgrims were once again welcome to visit the temple. As news spread, devotees and visitors from as far as Mumbai trooped in, not knowing that plans had changed at the last moment.
Sources say that as late as 8 am today, it was being debated whether the time was right to go ahead with the opening ceremony.
About 8.30 am, priests at the temple decided to cancel the opening ceremony. Temple sources say the reason rests on stars and not security considerations.
In a message, Swami Iswarcharan Das said “shradh” was not the best time to launch an auspicious programme. “We will wait till the first day of Navratri to open the temple to the public,” the message said.
“The temple will reopen at 9.34 am on October 7. Puja has been done in the temple and the necessary purification ceremonies with panchamrit have been completed,” the message added.
Mostly tight-lipped, police and the government, too, are maintaining — at least publicly — that there is nothing more to the decision than inappropriate time.
Home minister Gordhan Zadhaphia said the government had nothing to do with the sudden change of plans. “It is a matter that completely revolves around the temple authorities. It is their decision,” he said.
But Jayesh, a temple staff, dismisses the grenade theory. “The process of healing has already begun,” he says, “and the sooner it is taken to the people the better it is for everyone”.
As for the pilgrims, most say they will be there when the temple formally reopens. “There will be more people here than ever before once the temple reopens,” said Chetan Dholakia, a Gandhinagar resident, who was curtly told at gate number one to go home. “Faith will not be cowed down. I will come again when the temple opens and I will come with my entire family.”
Jeevan Thakore, who had brought along his granddaughter, waited for more than an hour. “Okay, we leave now, but we will come back later. Till then, take care of the temple,” he shouted to the CRPF jawans who were signalling to the crowd outside the closed gates to clear the area.
More than 150 jawans, along with the temple’s private security team of 25, are guarding the complex round the clock. Jayesh says next time people come to visit, they might have to go through metal detectors. “Everything is in place.”