Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) [India], October 24 (ANI): Hatu temple stationed at a peak of 11,000 meters in Shimla attracted hundreds of devotees during the Navratri festival amid the COVID-19 protocols.
"We did a lot of planning before coming here. There is no crowd but we are taking all precautions keeping in mind the safety of locals," Shefali, a pilgrim, told ANI.
Only 50 per cent of tourists have visited the Hatu temple this year compared to previous years during the festive season of Navratri.
"The medical system is not well placed in hilly areas so the tourists visiting the temple during the pandemic need to be extra cautious for their health. That is precisely the reason for a dramatic decline in the number of pilgrims," Shefali added.
The pandemic caused a sense of fear not only amongst the tourists but local residents as well. The Hatu temple, which usually witnesses a huge crowd of devotees throughout the year, was largely empty in the past months due to the lockdown restrictions.
"I have come to this temple after so long and the weather is good. It almost feels like there is no virus in the air. We ate in the temple 'bhandara' and life seems normal. We haven't stepped out of our homes for months now. Thanks to Dussehra we visited this temple," Saanchi, a young pilgrim, said.
Devotees believe that their wishes will be fulfilled in the Hatu temple and Navratri is considered the most auspicious time of the year to offer prayers here.
"Navratri is a nine-day holy period during which many devotees visit Hatu temple to offer prayers and please Goddess Kali. This temple is believed to exist since centuries and devotees come with a lot of faith to the temple. Currently, the pilgrims are few in number due to the COVID-19 protocols but otherwise, this is the busiest time of the year for the temple," Hatu temple manager told ANI.
The celebrations of Sharad (autumn) Navratri involve worshipping Goddess Durga and her nine forms. The festival is celebrated in different ways across the country. During the nine-day period, devotees offer their prayers to Goddess Durga and observe fasts.
This occasion is believed to mark Goddess Durga's victory over demon Mahishasura, signifying the victory of good over evil. The 10th day of Sharad Navratri is celebrated as Dussehra or Vijaya Dashami. (ANI)