Coronavirus scare: Iskcon prohibits foreigners in the Vrindavan temple, not Holi for widows

AGRA: After 29 people, including six from Agra, they tested positive for the management of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in Vrindavan has decided to ban the entry of foreigners in the temple. Besides, the famous Holi celebrations by the widows in Vrindavan, scheduled for March 7, have also been canceled.

Confirming the move, Iskcon Mathura spokesperson Rajiv Lochan said, Due to the rapid spread of the virus across the globe, the temple management has decided not to allow foreigners inside the premises as a precautionary measure. He said Iskcon has devotees across the world and they visit Vrindavan to participate in Gaura Purnima festival, which will start this month from March 9.

We have already made an announcement so that visitors can change their plans accordingly, he said.

Saurabh Das, director (communication) of Iskcon, Vrindavan, told TOI, Since a large number of Brahamcharis stay together at Iskcon, we cannot take risk with their health. We have requested our foreign devotees, especially those from the affected countries, not to visit the temple for at least two months. He added they have urged others to get medical checkups done and take a certificate before visiting the temple. He said so far there had been no drop in tourist footfall in Mathura-Vrindavan.

The administration also decided to place notices on all temple doors asking devotees to wear masks before entering the premises for everyone's safety, Das said.

Meanwhile, Sulabh Foundation, which has been organizing grand Holi celebrations for widows in Vrindavan since 2013, has also announced cancellation of event, scheduled on Saturday, due to the scare of Covid-19. This is the second consecutive year when Holi celebrations have been canceled.

According to NGO officials, the big meeting during the celebrations may not be advisable given the circumstances. Instead, the NGO has decided to give saris and candy widows.