Monkeys of Mahabali temple break into houses amid lockdown

With the impact of shutting down of temples, negligible number of devotees can be seen in each temples of the state including Mahabali temple, Wanghkei, Imphal East.

Some of the locals residing near Mahabali temple, Wanghkei, Imphal East have raised complaints that the monkeys of the temple have started trespassing into their locality and even intruding into their houses out of starvation as the number of devotees visiting the temple with offerings have reduced owing to the ongoing lockdown.

However, the caretaker of the Mahabali temple said that the monkeys are well fed and urged the public to feed them inside the compound of the temple so that the monkeys may not develop the habit of roaming outside.

With the impact of shutting down of temples, negligible number of devotees can be seen in each temples of the state including Mahabali temple, Wanghkei, Imphal East. The temple is located adjacent to the Imphal River on its eastern side near Sanjenthong bridge. It is a Hindu temple where people come to worship the Hindu god, Hanuman. It is the only place in the city area where monkeys can be seen.

Speaking to theImphal Free Press, a local who chose not to be named said that the monkeys had started roaming around the locality unlike the past days. In the last 12 days, they have started coming out from the temple with the intent to steal food from the nearby locality of the temple.

She said, “One monkey was seen sitting right in front of her window, I threw some bread and it went away. But more of them showed up the next day, maybe with the expectation that they would be given food. I offered some food at first but there are so many of them. How can I offer them food daily so I started to ignore.”

She alleged that the temple committee hardly feed the monkeys these days as no devotees come to the temple due to the lockdown. If necessary alternatives are not taken, then the monkeys could harm the locals to fulfill their hunger, she added.

One the other hand, the caretaker of the said temple, B Gyaneshor Sharma expressed, “The monkeys are getting healthier than before during the lockdown as many devotees and animal lovers have donated various foods in bulk”. They are concerned that that the monkeys might be starving during the lockdown, he said.

He said some Agarwals and Marawalis of Khwairamband usually donate food for  monkeys regularly since decades. Moreover, different individuals, local club of nearby, animal lovers even from Moirang also came and donated food for the monkeys during the lockdown, he informed. Additionally, he along with other 15 caretakers also feed the monkeys regularly four times a day, he added.

Gyaneshor said, “Other caretakers of the temple including his wife feed the monkeys regularly with flour, whole gram, pumpkins and others. But some of them tend to ignore the usual diet given to them and go for the food offered by people from the road in front of the temple gate”.

They usually have a habit of discovering new things beyond the boundary of the temple. So, some of them might trespass into the locality as they already acquired a habit of exploring outside the temple.

At the temple, there are about 1000 monkeys and they have different behaviors and characters, some want to be around people while some wants to be inside the Mahabali woods, he informed. But the caretaker of the temple is feeding them well enough, he stated. He also said, “Some naughty ones among them might trespass into the locality. It is a notorious habit for some of them”.

He appealed to the people, animal lovers, devotees and others to feed the monkeys only inside the compound of the temple so that they remain inside.

Outside the temple, this reporter interacted with one Steffi Nongmeikapam who came to feed the monkeys with cucumber and kabok (roasted rice). Steffi said, “I saw a facebook post along with a photograph with a caption which read that the monkeys of Mahabali are eating leftovers thrown on the road”. Being an animal lover, she came to feed some of the monkeys, she added.

In connection with the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi imposed the nationwide lockdown from the midnight of March 24 across the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Supporting the lockdown, the state government also announced to close down the temples and suspend religious ceremonies to avoid mass gathering.

First Published:May 23, 2020, 11:02 a.m.