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No-go area:The Kamakhya temple administration has barred entry of devotees due to COVID-19.Ritu Raj Konwar  

Ambubachi, the festival marking the annual ‘menstruation’ of the presiding Goddess, began at the Kamakhya temple on June 22 without mendicants, hermits and devotees for the first time in almost 500 years.

Many places of worship in Assam had opened after the State government went on ‘unlock’ mode from June 3. But the Kamakhya temple administration decided to keep the premises locked in view of the spike in COVID-19 positive cases in the State, primarily Guwahati. The local administration declare 129 localities as containment zones.

Till June 21, Assam had recorded 5,586 positive cases, with 2,170 of them active, nine dead and three migrated to other States. The rest have been discharged.

“We decided not to risk community transmission of the novel coronavirus by allowing large-scale gathering during Ambubachi Mela, as in previous years. Our priests are conducting the rituals behind locked gates. Only assigned priests and security personnel are being let in,” head priest Mohit Sarma said.

The rituals began at 7:53 a.m. on Monday and would end at 8:16 a.m. on June 25, after which the door of the sanctum sanctorum would be opened without the start of the ‘menstruation’-ending fair, he said.

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