The number of devotees inside the Bankey Bihari temple at a time should be restricted while the VIP enclosure should be removed, priests at the shrine have said, days after two devotees “suffocated to death” due to overcrowding. However, a former president of the shrine’s management committee said either a new bigger temple should be constructed and the deity be shifted there or the area around the shrine be developed on the lines of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor in Varanasi.

The suggestions came as two devotees were killed in early hours of Saturday, with District Magistrate Navneet Singh Chahal saying “prima facie, the cause of death is suffocation due to a heavy rush at the ‘mangala aarti’ during the Krishna Janmashtami celebrations. Priest Gaurav Goshwami said limited number of devotees should be allowed inside the shrine at a time and a barrier system should put in place outside it to manage crowd. Another priest, Gyanendra Goshwami, said the VIP enclosure should be removed to create more space for devotees inside the temple.

He said donation boxes kept inside the temple should be shifted to a raised platform outside the shrine, which will make the temple spacious. Mahesh Pathak, a former president of the Bankey Bihari temple management committee, said the deity should be shifted to a new bigger temple, for which the government should acquire land. Provisions for priests, garland sellers and parking of vehicles should be made at the new location, he said. He said the other option is to renovate the temple area on the lines of the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor by shifting nearby shops to other places.

Another former president of the temple management committee, KC Gaur, said the area of the existing temple may be increased by using land behind it. Gaur said earlier the plan could not materialise as two shopkeepers brought a stay order from the Allahabad High Court. Seer Uma Shakti Peethadhishwar Ramdeva Nand Maharaj rejected the idea of renovating the temple, saying it would displace one-fourth of Vrindavan.

The seer said four years ago, he had suggested the construction of a majestic temple over 500 acres, with facilities like parking space, shops and space for priests. Meanwhile, DM Navneet Singh Chahal said he along with the SSP surveyed the area in and around the temple, interacted with priests and shrine management to “improve affairs of the temple” and prevent any tragedy in future.

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