The country-wide lockdown has forced shut doors of temples in the pilgrim destination of Neemsar in UP''s Sitapur district but on Tuesdays and Saturdays hundreds of needy line up to take packets of essentials being distributed by temple authorities.
Though authorities at temples like the Hanuman Garhi are doing their bit to reach out to the poor in Neemsar also known as Naimisharnaya, about 90 km from here, the priests are themselves unsure of how to sustain themselves if the lockdown is not lifted on April 14.
With a motto "Saksham hain to Seva karein" (Serve, if you have resources), the Mahant of the Hanuman temple Bajrang Das said the temple with its own resources is giving two kgs of wheat, lentils, mustard oil, spices in a packet to the needy.
"We are also giving Rs 50 in cash to those coming for their daily expenses. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, people line up here and we distribute packets. With a word of mouth publicity 400-500 needy persons come here," the Mahant said.
"We have arrangements till April 14 but after this period if the lockdown is not lifted we will see how we can continue with this. We pray to Lord Hanuman that situation due to coronavirus comes under control and the lockdown is lifted," he added.
At Neemsar''s Lalita Ashram also its head Lal Bihari Shastri is ensuring distribution of food packets to the needy.
"We are hopeful the situation will come under control and the lockdown is lifted on April 14. Till then we are trying to provide whatever help we can to the people," he said.
Rajnarain Pandey, Head Priest, Chakrateerth, which is the place in Neemsar where Lord Brahma''s ''Chakra'' cracked through the earth forming a large source of water (Chakra Kund) said, "This is for the first time such a silence is prevailing here. We are sure that the lockdown will be lifted next week. If not, the administration here will have to make arrangements for pandits and pandas here as they will be financially hit."
"We are praying and God..that''s what we know...He will certainly help us all," he added.
Pradhan Acharya of Ashtkon temple Aarti Sumit Kumar, who is helping people with medicines and food, is also hopeful that the lockdown will be lifted.
"We all are mentally prepared till April 14 but if the situation does not improve it will make life of priests here more difficult," he said.
"Naimisharanya is the place wherever several sages have performed penance. It is believed that on visiting this sacred place, people obviate their sins. Our prayers from here will certainly work," Sumit said.
For Aaveg Mehrotra, who owns a hotel here, it is time to reach out to the needy.
"We and others in the business are following whatever instructions are coming from our PM and CM. Though my hotel is not running and like others I am suffering losses, I am ensuring payment to my staff and utilising them for cooking for the needy. We are trying to reach out to maximum people and give food packets to 300-400 people per day."
"This is time to contribute to society. With God''s grace, we hope all this will normalise and we will be back in business soon with return of devotees to Neemsar," he said.