Hundreds of people, mostly elderly, had taken refuge at Sri Krishna Temple at Guruvayur in Kerala's Thrissur district. However, after the pandemic struck and the temple was shut for devotees during the COVID-19 lockdown, they had nowhere to go.
But fortunately for them, the Guruvayur Devaswom, municipality and district administration made a timely intervention. Camps were opened at the GUP school and Sri Krishna school for the destitute people, who had been living at the temple premises.
The Devaswom provided rice, groceries, blankets and clothes. Volunteer outfits brought in vegetables. The municipality started a kitchen. A total of 530 people slept peacefully at these camps.
This initiative also prompted the government to start camps for those living on the streets.
Nearly a thousand people had taken refuge at the temple premises. Some of them had been abandoned by their family, some had disowned their families, some who were seeking the path to salvation, and those who gave up worldly pleasures and chosen Vanaprastha and so on.
They all lived happily at the temple premises. They could pay obeisance at the temple, watch art programmes and were assured of food. Some of the devotees also gave them money. They were not responsible or answerable to anyone. They were completely free.
The 10-day temple festival began on March 6, 2020. However, half-way through the festival, COVID-19 curbs were imposed. The temple feasts were stopped and restrictions were imposed on devotees as well. And those who had sought shelter at the temple premises were left in the lurch. The municipality began to shift these people to the old age homes by March 17.
But several people were reluctant to leave the temple premises. Some protested. And more than half the number of people returned to their native places. But with even the hotels and shops shut, the ones who protested were also at a loss on what to do. They then went in search of the care homes. Thus, 530 people, including Keralites, Tamilians, and even those from North India, came together at the camps.
The municipality held counselling sessions and 17 people were reunited with their families.
But the camps were shut on June 17. And the majority of these people returned to Guruvayur. Those who were healthy started taking up odd jobs.
The remaining 41 became residents of the municipality's old age home. Now, there are 68 people, some of them bed-ridden, at the old age home. All of them are assured of food and medical care.
Devaswom chairman KB Mohandas, deputy Collector M B Gireesh, municipal chairperson M Rathi, vice-chairman Abhilash V Chandran, municipal councillor Shailaja Devan led the initiative to rehabilitate the destitute.