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India will help Nepal despite border dispute

NEW DELHI, 17 JUNE. Despite the ongoing tension from Nepal, India has committed to building a sanitation center at the Pashupatinath temple complex here at a cost of Rs 2.33 crore. A sanitation center will be constructed for devotees to make improvements at this holy site. The project will be constructed as a highimpact community development plan of India under the 'Nepal- India Friendship Development Partnership'.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Embassy of India, Nepal's Federal Affairs Ministry, General Administration, and the Kathmandu metropolitan city for the construction of a sanitation center at Pashupatinath Temple.

The temple is also listed under UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to a statement issued by the Indian embassy here, under this initiative, India has committed financial assistance of 3.72 crore Nepalese rupees (2.33 crore Indian rupees) to the sanitation center.

The Kathmandu metropolitan city will be implemented in 15 months as per the rules laid down by the Government of Nepal. Pashupatinath Temple is the largest temple complex in Nepal and is spread on both sides of the Bagmati River where thousands of devotees come from Nepal and India every day. The lower house of the Nepali parliament unanimously passed a bill aimed at amending the constitution to include Kalapani and Limpiyadhura, the scriptures of Uttarakhand, India. India has described this step as unacceptable.

No prasad, holy water or singing allowed in religious places

NEW DELHI, 4 JUNE. The outbreak of coronavirus, with numbers rising sharply, is set to change the experience of visiting religious places in the country. Not only will the jostling crowds be gone, making offerings and receiving prasad, vermillion dots or holy water will be a strict no-no. There should also be no physical singing and only recorded music should be played as far as possible, the Centre said in its new safety guidelines issued today. All the country's most popular shrines -- from Sabarimala in the south to Vaishnodevi in the north -- had shut their doors to the public days before the countrywide lockdown was announced on March 25.

The Central guidelines issued today underscored the need to continue the use of masks and social distancing as part of the safety measures. Advocating separate entry and exits for visitors, the guidelines also said the devotees should maintain physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet at all times when queuing up for entry.

Only asymptomatic people can be allowed in and they should wash their hands and feet with soap and water before entering the premises of any religious place, the guidelines said. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own.

Touching of statues, idols, icons or holy books are not allowed. "No physical offerings like Prasad or distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc. will be allowed inside the religious place," the guidelines further said, in view of the highly infectious nature of the coronavirus.

As far as feasible, recorded devotional music or songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the guidelines also said.

The lockdown guidelines had expressly barred religious gatherings and other occasions where a crowd might gather, as part of safety measures against the infection. Large gatherings still remain prohibited and the religious places have been asked to stagger the entry of visitors.

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