Devotees brave April scorcher to throng Belur Math, temples on Poila Baisakh

Summer celebrations across Kolkata reflect a throwback to life before Covid pandemic

Kinsuk Basu Kolkata Published 16.04.22, 07:57 AM
Devotees queue up at Dakshineswar temple on Friday.

Devotees queue up at Dakshineswar temple on Friday. Picture by Gautam Bose

An opportunity to visit all the places of interest at Belur Math for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic two years ago saw thousands of devotees throng the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission on Bengali New Year.

Earlier, visitors would only be allowed to visit four temples — of Sri Ramakrishna, Ma Sarada, Swami Vivekananda and Swami Brahmananda — in the Math compound.


With the Math authorities restoring the pre-pandemic rule, devotees from Friday are allowed access to Swami Vivekananda’s room and the freedom to attend the evening aarti at the Sri Ramakrishna temple and pray or meditate at any of the temples in the compound.

“Distribution of tokens to visitors for the afternoon bhog resumed on Friday. It had remained suspended since the outbreak of the pandemic,” said a monk at the Math.

Over the last two years, the Math premises have mostly remained shut to visitors as a precaution against Covid. And on occasions when visitors were let in, they were allowed to stay in the compound for two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

From Friday, visitors are allowed from 6.30am to 11.30am and again from 4pm to 9pm.

Day 1 saw visitors pour in from near and afar, some with their ailing parents on wheelchairs. Defying the April heat, devotees, including children and the aged, toured the sprawling campus, many pausing here and there for selfies.

The pathway to multi-storeyed Ma Sarada Sadabrata Bhawan at one end of the Math was crowded with devotees queuing up for prasad.

“We have come to offer our prayers for the world to be free of diseases, so all of us can return to the life we were used to before the pandemic struck,” said Rathindranath Mitra, a devotee who had come all the way from Kalyani in Nadia district, around 65km north of Kolkata.

Apart from a battery of monks — who started their day by offering pranam to the Holy Trio and then to their seniors on the occasion of Poila Baisakh — volunteers were posted at different points to guide visitors.

At the Dakshineswar temple, devotees started queuing up from early in the morning and as the day progressed, the footfall kept rising. The devotees were happy that they were allowed closer to the deity after a gap of two years.

By late morning, traffic became unmanageable with visitors pouring in from different parts of the city and adjoining areas, and the road leading to the temple almost getting clogged with cars. The skywalk above teemed with devotees, too.

The footfall at the Kalighat temple reminded many of the pre-Covid days when traders would queue up from early in the morning with haal khata, or the new ledger book of the year.

Additional police had to be deployed late in the day to control the crowd, something that was amiss for the last two years.

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