Written by: Kanessha Rama Krishnan
Edited by: Vijayabalan Krishnan
KLANG, 26 April - The massive scaling down of the Chithirai Pournami festivities has seen a drastic decrease of devotees as the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere near to be seen.
Chithirai Pournami is celebrated by Hindu devotees on the first full moon on the month of Chithirai according to the Tamil Calendar (April - May) to cleanse their sins as a ceremony of atonement through prayers.
Being one of the only temples allowed to carry on with the festivities this year, the Sri Balasubramaniam Swamy Devasthanam, Port Klang has become the subject of scrutiny by the National Security Council (MKN) and The Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) for managing what usually would be ten to twelve thousand crowds of people and for adherence of the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) provided by MKN.
The stark difference in the celebrations from before the pandemic has caused a mixed reaction among the people as to how it is being celebrated this year. This is mainly because the common traditions that have made the festival symbolic to the people were the chariot, ‘kavadi’ and milk pot processions which are not being held this year.
Despite the many restrictions that were imposed, the Chairman of the Sri Balasubramaniam Swamy Devasthanam temple, Supiramaniam Renggapa has expressed his gratitude for being able to conduct prayers for the Hindu residents in Klang in which they were not able to do so last year as ‘ Definitely a step forward for us’.
‘Covid-19 should not be made a challenge although it has made us change our ways of worship’, said the Head of the Central Working Committee of the temple, Dr. Muruga Subramaniam. He added that all necessary measures are being taken to manage the crowds and adhere to the strict SOP given by MKN. ‘Milk pots are allowed to be brought, only from the temple premises as milk pot processions are prohibited for this year’, said Dr. Muruga. One of the measures being that there will only be 2 canopies with 500 seats sufficiently spaced between each other for temple devotees to wait for their turn to enter the temple based on a token system. Devotees were to also pass a three-stage kiosk to scan their temperature, scan the MySejahtera QR code or write in their entry manually and hand sanitizing. The temple was visited by representatives from MKN and PDRM to ensure that SOPs adhere.
Devotees who visit the temple were guided around the temple to their exit by the 30 officers from the Malaysian Volunteer Corps (RELA), as a way to manage crowds and prevent stalling or waiting.
However, the turnout of the devotees was significantly lesser than what was expected. This was due to an amalgamation of factors, such as the fear from further spread of the virus as well as the festivities being held on a working day. The lesser crowd has eased the process of maintaining social distancing between devotees.
The Chairman of the Balasubramaniam Swamy Devasthanam temple is optimistic that the festivities will be celebrated as done in the previous years soon and urges the people to have faith that the pandemic will indeed come to an end.