Scaled-up Diwali festivities return after COVID shutdown


“This year because of COVID, we are keeping a low profile. We are not advertising or having a big festival. We want to be very careful because we take care of our congregation and we want to protect it.” – Rakesh Dhir.

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The Burnaby Hindu Temple had big plans to celebrate the annual Diwali holiday after the COVID-19 pandemic forced its cancellation last year, but has now had doubts after an increase in cases in parts of the province .


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“This year, because of COVID, we are in a low position,” temple president Rakesh Dhir said. “We don’t advertise and don’t have a big festival. We want to be very careful because we take care of our congregation and we want to protect them. “

Yemple management “first thought about it (having a celebratory dinner) but all of a sudden they shut everything down in northern BC due to an outbreak and the Delta variant. We cannot take the risk, ”Dhir said.

Instead, devotees will be invited to come and pray during the holidays, which Dhir says is “like Christmas” for the estimated 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 few weeks before and after the actual date.


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Those wishing to attend Pooja, during which followers pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, can attend the temple’s open doors, during which admission will be checked to ensure there are enough space for everyone to keep a safe distance. Anyone entering will need to be fully vaccinated and wear masks.

Members of the Burnaby Hindu Temple are preparing for Diwali on Thursday.
Members of the Burnaby Hindu Temple are preparing for Diwali on Thursday. Photo by Francis Georgian /PNG

In 2019, there were as many as 700 worshipers 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, they might be overwhelmed by the participants. They have had a number of outdoor events this year at the temple, including yoga sessions, and there have been plenty of them.

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

Celebrations are happening elsewhere around November 4, including the Grand Diwali Festival at Fraserview Banquet Hall in Vancouver, which offered just 150 tickets instead of the 1,000 sold before COVID.


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

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

“But that’s the best thing because all the tables are left behind, for safety,” Gautam said. “If anything (an epidemic) happens, my name is bad. “

Participants must be double vaccinated and wear masks except when eating or drinking, he said, and staff will monitor and remind people.

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

“It will be a whole different Diwali,” he said.

Gautam noticed that more people this year are interested in wearing traditional costumes, “the real religious stuff”, perhaps because they are tired of casual clothes. “It surprised me.”

Gautam hopes it will be the last reduced Diwali and for next year he has already reserved the hall for 1,000 people.

“We keep our fingers crossed,” he says.



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