Photo/Illutration The Nigatsudo hall of Todaiji temple is lit by torches in Nara on March 1. This photo is a composite of three images. (Tatsuo Kanai)

NARA--Eleven monks will pray to end the spread of the coronavirus during rituals that began here March 1 at Todaiji temple's Nigatsudo hall.

Each year at this time, Rengyoshu monks pray six times a day during services called “hongyo”  to absolve the world of its sins at the Shunie torch-bearing ceremony, also known as Omizutori.

The monks also pray for a huge harvest and world peace.

Monks one after another carried torches measuring 6 to 7 meters in length high up to the balcony of the hall, a government-designated national treasure, trailing sparks.

Many in the audience watching the torch procession wore face masks as protection against the coronavirus.

The temple made announcements over loudspeakers that asked people to wear masks and go home if they felt feverish.

The torch processions will be held nightly until March 14. The prayer will last until the early morning of March 15.