Sansari Ojha from the Brahmani Devi Temple under Narasinghpur police station in Cuttack cut off 52-year-old Saroj Kumar Pradhan’s head.
The Hindu priest from the Bandhahuda area in Odisha killed the man to appease a goddess, he claimed.
He beheaded Pradhan with an axe at night in the temple’s shrine after an argument.
Priest Sansari Ojha (pictured), 70, of Brahmani Dei Temple in Bhubaneswar cut off 52-year-old Saroj Kumar Pradhan’s head on Wednesday as a ‘sacrifice’ to end coronavirus
Detective Ashish Kumar Singh said Ojha was heavily drunk at the time and surrendered to police the following day after coming to his senses.
He said Ojha claimed he was ordered by a goddess in his dream to sacrifice a human in order to bring an end to the pandemic.
Alok Ranjan Ray, Athagarh sub-divisional police officer, said: ‘The priest claimed that he saw a goddess in his dream and was asked to sacrifice a human’s life to bring an end to coronavirus.
‘Hence, to appease the goddess, he decapitated the man,’ he told Gulf News.
Police say they have began an investigation and both men were known to be smoking marijuana before the attack.
Mr Pradhan’s body has been sent for an autopsy and the murder weapon has been seized from the shrine.
Social activist Satya Prakash Pati told India Today: ‘It’s unbelievable in 21st century that people still behave in such barbaric ways.
‘We demand strong action against the guilty.’
Passengers are checked for Covid-19 by health workers upon their arrival from New Delhi at New Jalpaiguri railway station today
The priest was known to have a long-standing dispute with Mr Pradhan over a mango orchard in Bandhahuda village.
Mr Pradhan tended the trees at the Brahmani Devi temple, which has had its access restricted due to coronavirus, and the pair shared a room together.
India recorded 4,797 coronavirus deaths yesterday as the country’s number of infections increased to 167,442, following exponential growth through May.
There are fears that the country is becoming a new epicentre for the disease in Asia, following a surprisingly low infection rate earlier on in the pandemic.
India made up nearly a quarter of Asia’s new infections last Friday, with the continent as a whole accounting for 23 per cent of the world’s daily tally – up from a figure as low as eight per cent in March and April.