Covid: God can punish Nepal for canceling rites, warn religious leaders

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Reuters

Legend
An idol of the living goddess Kumari is depicted inside a miniature chariot


Nepal’s decision to curtail centuries-old festivals and rituals over coronavirus fears has sparked a strong response from religious leaders. Some have warned that divine wrath could lead the country to disaster.

Temples are closed and mass gatherings have been banned following a lockdown since March.

Officials say the restrictions are unlikely to be lifted before the major festivals of Dashain and Tihar, which fall during the months of October and November respectively.

Nepal, with its unique juxtaposition of Hindu and Buddhist culture and way of life, has seen little festivities during the pandemic.

In the capital Kathmandu, rituals, including float processions involving large crowds to honor different deities, have been canceled or reduced to small ceremonies.

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Bikram Bajracharya

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Kapil Bajracharya is sad that he cannot play his role


Last month, clashes erupted in southern Kathmandu after angry protesters challenged government lockdown orders to attend Indra Jatra, a float procession in honor of the rain god. The ritual was carried out later – on a much smaller scale and with a police presence.

Kapil Bajracharya, the main priest leading the Rato Machhindranath Jatra (a chariot procession in honor of the god of agriculture), says it is very irresponsible of the government to curb religious activities.

“My family has been carrying out the ritual for centuries. I am very sad that I was not allowed during my tenure to organize the procession of the floats. As far as I know it has never been canceled before.

The 72-year-old added: “I believe Nepal is a sacred home for the gods. If the gods are angry, we are going to find ourselves in more serious trouble than the coronavirus. I have a serious objection against the control of religions by the Nepalese government, which limits on sinners as far as I am concerned. “

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Bishal Karmacharya

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Teacher Bishal Karmacharya fears that failure to honor the gods could backfire


Baburaja Jyapu, a 38-year-old businessman in Patan, also believes that the decision of the Nepalese government harms the religious feelings of people: “I have a strong belief in religion and I think that not to engage in religious activities can invite a bad omen.

“In my opinion, older people are more eager to visit religious places. If the government keeps the restrictions, people will have mental health issues. ”

However, many community and religious leaders say this year should be seen as an exception and that all religious and festive activities should only take place after safety is assured.

Follow the science

Gautam Shakya, a keeper of the living goddess of Kathmandu Kumari, who lives in a special temple near the traditional palace square – says they follow security protocols and there is unlikely to be an event on a large scale this year.

“We have not yet discussed with the government the presence of the goddess at the Taleju temple on the eighth day of the Dashain festival. I think there will be no crowds this time like in the past. But we can’t take any chances by taking him there. ”

“Some people worry that bad things will happen if we don’t worship properly,” he adds. “But in my opinion, we have to be realistic. We can only organize festivals and rituals and preserve our culture for the next generation if we survive. ”

Kumari, considered the reincarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga, is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists.

“Since the confinement, we haven’t let anyone visit him. We regularly pray and organize worship inside his residence by ourselves, ”Gautam said.

He said the living goddess also used masks and disinfectants inside her residence, popularly known as Kumari Ghar.

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Keshav P Koirala

Legend

Satya Mohan Joshi wants people to change over time


Nepalese cultural icon Satya Mohan Joshi says people should follow science rather than just talking about festivals or rituals.

The 101-year-old cultural expert said: “In the past, pandemics were seen as a curse from the gods.

“The people of Kathmandu would gather in the aisles to offer food and to pray for forgiveness. It’s an outdated idea now.

“In the name of running festivals and hosting parties, we cannot take any risks that may cause the coronavirus to spread in Kathmandu.

“It would destroy our economy and our health service. We should protect ourselves by following guidelines issued globally by the medical community. ”

Interior Ministry spokesman Chakra Bahadur Budha defended the government’s decision to restrict group worship, fairs and festivals.

“We asked people to maintain their social distance and self-discipline,” added the Nepalese official.

Hari Shankar Prajapati, a merchant from Kathmandu, agrees. “Any crowd could trigger a massive infection,” he says. “For me, health comes first. We cannot organize our festivals or religious events if our health is not good. “

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Hari Shankar Prajapati calls for a cautious approach


But Padma Shrestha is furious. “The government has created terror and people are angry,” he said. “Banning centuries-old worship or rituals could cause people to lose their faith in religion and government,” he warns.

Occupying common ground, Bikes Karmacharya, a schoolteacher on the outskirts of Kathmandu, wants festivals to be organized “by following measures of security and social distancing”.

“Our inability to offer the respect due to gods and goddesses can backfire. We should agree that God is our source of strength. ”

As of September 30, there were nearly 78,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 500 deaths from the coronavirus in Nepal.

Infections are on the rise in Kathmandu and there are fears that the disease will spread further as people return home during festivals.

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