Hindu Priests Struggle To Make Ends Meet With Odisha Yet To Open Temples, Some Forced To Sell BroomsJagannath Puri temple (Wikimedia Commons) 

The Odisha government’s decision to keep the temples closed down amid the Covid-19 pandemic has precariously impacted the livelihood of Hindu priests, The Hindu has reported.

Hence, pujaris have resorted to novel protests against the state government by banging gongs and belling rings in front of all the temples across the state.

Bhabani Shankar Mishra is a priest at Balunkeswar Temple at Dandamukundapur in Puri district. His savings have withered and his kin is compelled to make and sell brooms in the market to attain some income.

“Since 22 March, I have been confined to my home. The income has since dried up. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I used to earn from the donation of devotees. My family did not face any food shortage as the monthly income of around Rs 10,000 was enough,” Mishra said.

The priests tend to earn sufficiently during the Rath Yatra celebrations and the festive months from August to November. However, that source of income has been hampered due to the pandemic.

Kameswar Tripathy heads the priests’ body named Odisha Mandir Sevayat Sangh. Speaking to the Hindu, Tripathy lamented, “The situation is worsening every passing day. I usually earn Rs 50,000 during Rath Yatra celebration. The lockdown snatched my major income of the year.”

The pujaris say that opening up temples will help in working out the ongoing financial crisis. Janardan Pattajoshi Mohapatra is the head of the sevayats’ body ‘Chhatisa Nijog’ in Jagannath Temple.

“Priests are in acute financial crunch. Only opening of temple will solve the crisis. Once devotees start flocking temples, the economy around the religious institutions would get back to normalcy,” Mohapatra said.

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