In India’s historic riverside city of Varanasi, also known as “Banaras” and "Kashi", temple priests have covered the faces on the idols representing Goddess Parvati, Goddess Kali and Lord Shiva with masks, keeping them away from the toxic air.
Known as the "spiritual capital of India", Varanasi is a city on the banks of holy river Ganges in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh dating to the 11th century B.C. Along the city's winding streets are some 2,000 temples including "Kashi Vishwanath", the famous “Golden Temple” dedicated to Lord Shiva. The city is famous for its "Ganga Aarti", a ritual to offer prayers to the river Ganges.
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According to media reports, the priests from Varanasi’s famous “Shiv-Parvati Temple” believe that if on festivals and winter nights, idols of gods and goddesses are presented with new clothes and woollens, it is necessary for them to keep up with the trend of face masks.
He also said that an increased number of worshippers have started visiting the temple while covering the mouth with anti-pollution masks, posibly inspired by the now-masked deities.
Netizens have shared their reactions to the amusing news on micro-blogging site Twitter, calling out the Narendra Modi government to take quick measures to tackle the issue of smoggy air throttling northern India.
If idols need masks what chance have humans got eh pic.twitter.com/eMWpNBEGui— Durga (@the_bongrel) November 7, 2019
#Varanasi Now it's their turn ,as the air quality dips in Varanasi the priest at the popular Shiv-Parvati temple in Singra decided to put God idols anti pollution masks.— ☔🌈jaggirmRanbir🌈☔ (@jaggirm) November 6, 2019
It can happen only in India .Jai Ho pic.twitter.com/2KKtC5PJ7r
Air quality has plummeted dramatically across northern India in recent weeks, so much so that one #Temple in #Varanasi has taken the extreme measure of shielding its idols from the #Smog with protective #Face #Masks. #Photos of ... https://t.co/yKU3PqWUm6 pic.twitter.com/HsKWhxgxJp— 💥💥💥💥💥🔭🤖⓵ⒷⓊⓋ🌎📡💥💥💥💥💥 (@_1BUV) November 6, 2019
Don't know, I have to laugh or what ?— Ashish Kumar (@ashish_kumar16) November 6, 2019
Priest said, "many devotees started wearing masks after seeing the idols". Hands down devotees 🙌, unfortunately, we are living world's most polluted area.#AirPollutionIsNotAJoke pic.twitter.com/TAmbGPDBzc
A politician from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party recently evoked amusement by blaming neighbouring Pakistan for the toxic air in Indian cities.
Today they put up gas masks on idols in Varanasi temples. We're unofficially the world's largest mental institution.— Amit (@Schandillia) November 6, 2019
However, many netizens supported the act of covering the temple deities with masks if it inspires the general public.
This shows the true Hindu philosophy of considering God as your friend and not someone to be afraid of. He will always do good and you take care of him like your child and take rights on him as a friend. Several explanations exist on Vishnu and Shiva being considered so. (1/2)— AK (@AKRamanIndia) November 7, 2019
Only when I was about to call it pointless, I saw the temple you reported about is a one-room temple on the main roads of the city where deities are visible even if you're passing by and if masks on idols' faces are what inspire citizens to wear a mask themselves, why not? https://t.co/2AhfLkh972 pic.twitter.com/UdBQOAhMVt— Sunidhi Srivastava (@Stg1309) November 6, 2019
Earlier last week, New Delhi's air quality index breached the “severe” and “emergency” mark after India celebrated its annual festival of lights Diwali with fire crackers, followed by farmers across the states of Punjab and Haryana burning the paddy stubble in their fields.
To combat air toxicity, Delhi's government rolled out the “odd-even” vehicle rationing scheme mandating private cars with license plate numbers ending in odd digits to stay off the roads on even dates and vice-versa until 15 November.
The scheme, however, will be suspended for a couple of coming days – 11th and 12th November – on the occasion of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak’s 550th birthday.
The exception in the “odd-even” rule is to allow the Sikh community to freely participate in the big celebration that is set to be held across India.