Reduced Diwali holidays return after COVID hiatus

“This year due to COVID, we are lying. We are not advertising and we are not having a big festival. We want to be very careful because we care about our congregation and we want to protect them.” – Rakesh Dhir.

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The Hindu Temple in Burnaby had big plans to celebrate the annual Diwali holiday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation last year, but they have now reconsidered after a spike in cases in some parts of the province.

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“This year, due to COVID, we are in hiding,” said temple president Rakesh Dhir. “We are not advertising and we are not having a big festival. We want to be very careful because we care about our congregation and we want to protect them. “

Yemple’s management was “first thinking about it (having a celebratory dinner) but all of a sudden they shut down everything in northern British Columbia due to an outbreak and the Delta bypass. We cannot take the risk, ”Dhir said.

Instead, parishioners will be invited to pray during the holiday, which Dhir said is “like Christmas” for the roughly 350,000 South Asians in British Columbia, including Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, some Buddhists and other religious groups. This year it falls on November 4, but it is celebrated a couple of weeks before and after the actual date.

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Those who want to attend Pooja, in which followers pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, can attend the temple’s open house style, during which admission will be monitored to ensure there is enough space for everyone. can keep a safe distance. Anyone entering must be fully vaccinated and wear masks.

Members of the Burnaby Hindu Temple as they prepare for Diwali on Thursday.
Members of the Burnaby Hindu Temple as they prepare for Diwali on Thursday. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

In 2019, there were up to 700 parishioners at a large Diwali dinner in a rented hall hosted by the temple, and Dhir said he was concerned that if they hosted a dinner this year, the participants might overwhelm them. This year they have had a number of outdoor events at the temple, including yoga sessions, and they were well attended.

“The numbers are what scare us,” he said.

The celebrations will take place at other venues around November 4, including the Great Diwali Festival at the Fraserview Banquet Hall in Vancouver, which offered just 150 tickets instead of the 1,000 they sold before COVID.

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“It was sold out in a day and a half,” said organizer Vikas Gautam. “Because for almost two years we were trapped at home. This is the first Diwali celebration in almost two years. “

He said they could easily have sold more tickets, but when they booked the hall, they decided to keep it small because restrictions on meetings had not yet been lifted. The largest room is no longer available.

“But it’s for the best because all the boards are spaced, for safety,” Gautam said. “If something happens (an outbreak), my name is spoiled.”

Attendees must be doubly vaccinated and wear masks, except when eating or drinking, he said, and staff will be monitoring and remembering people.

Dancing is normally a big part of Diwali celebrations, but it’s not allowed by the public health order, so organizers lined up two hours of performers.

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“This will be a completely different Diwali,” he said.

Gautam noted that this year more people are interested in wearing traditional costumes, “the really religious things,” perhaps because they are tired of casual clothing. “That surprised me.”

Gautam hopes that this will be the last reduced Diwali and for next year he has already reserved the room with space for 1,000 people.

“Fingers crossed,” he said.


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