The wake of the pandemic has drastically changed life as we know it. Shops, restaurants, schools, and other public spaces have been shut down to prevent the virus from proliferating and infecting more people.
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, one of the most affected facets of the society was the religious sector. During this time, practitioners of various religions were forced to retreat to their homes and refrain from attending gatherings to stay safe from the virus.
With 1.3 billion people, Hinduism is the most practiced religion in India. Celebrations like Durga Puja, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Navratri can be extremely crowded, so government officials have deemed it necessary to put a stop to gatherings to keep the public safe.
However, the presence of the virus didn’t stop people from praying and showing reverence to their gods. In some cities such as Mumbai, the festival for Ganesh which starts from August 22 to Sept 1 has been transferred into a moving, artificial pond where people can immerse their idols. The truck has its own water tanker and can be contacted throughout the duration of the festival.
Pre-pandemic, the humid streets of Mumbai become crowded with people, banners, and flyers where attendees hand out modaks, a confection made of sweet dumplings stuffed with grated coconut.
In neighbourhoods and villages, people set up platforms called pandals, which is where a life-size image of Ganesh will be displayed, adorned with flowers, food, and incense. However, for this year, a massive cut down on festivities took place because the images have to be under 2 feet before they can get submerged in the pond.
Moreover, people are not allowed to barricade the streets as only municipal officials and front-liners are allowed to go outside.
Aside from gatherings, activities such as wakes have also been affected. In India, people send off their deceased loved ones by parading the body in the streets, dressed in colourful clothing. After this, the body will be cremated and then scattered in the cremation grounds.
Now, gatherings for the dead have been cut down to 20 people and the line of funeral pyres in the Ganges River have lessened to prevent the area from overcrowding.
In Varanasi, a holy city in India, only one priest recites prayers and sutras to send off the dead to lessen the people getting in contact with each other. Due to a shortage in services and cars that ferry remains back to their families, a lot of funeral pyres have piled up in the area.
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