Nepal’s iconic Pashupatinath Temple, the 5th century holy Hindu shrine, opened for pilgrims on Wednesday after being closed for nine months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pashupatinath Temple is the largest temple complex in Nepal and stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River and sees thousands of worshippers from Nepal and India daily.

Entry of devotees inside the temple premises was prohibited since the Nepal government imposed a lockdown in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Special safety measures have been adopted to open the temple which is situated in the outskirts of Kathmandu, said Pradeep Dhakal, chief of the Pashupati Temple Area Trust.

Hundreds of devotees queued up at the southern entrance gate of the complex on Wednesday, seeking to enter the revered Shiva temple.

The devotees need to compulsorily wear a face mask, sanitise their hands at the main entrance before passing through a separate room installed with automatic cameras that record their temperature.

There are marks on the ground en-route the main temple complex for enforcing the two-metre gap between the people. The devotees need to wash their hands with liquid soap before entering into the main temple complex.

The devotees are allowed to offer prayers inside the temple going through all the health safety protocols, Dhakal said.

Although the temple has been opened for visitors, the special puja, singing of hymns and ritual activities would not begin immediately, he said.

“We will gradually start conducting the special puja, singing of hymns and other rituals that have been suspended by adopting health safety procedures,” Dhakal said.

Atonement worship was offered at the main entrance of the temple on Tuesday, seeking forgiveness as the shrine had to be shut down for nine months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some religious groups had carried out symbolic protests at the Pashupati area under the leadership of the World Hindu Federation, saying the devotees have not been able to visit the temple for worship as it remained closed for months.

Nepal’s coronavirus tally crossed the grim milestone of 250,000 on Tuesday, according to the Ministry of Health and Population.