Nfld. & Labrador

Diwali pushes on in St. John's, offering reduced capacity celebrations and online prayer

The Hindu Temple in St. John's celebrated Diwali on Saturday, but like much else this year, things looked a lot different because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

'We are like a big family,' says Sreevani Katna

Sreevani Katna, a board member of the Hindu Temple in St. John's, says it's important to hold Diwali events this year to give members a place to pray and somewhere to be a part of the community. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

The Hindu Temple in St. John's celebrated Diwali on Saturday, but like much else this year, things looked a lot different because of the pandemic.

There was no mass gathering to celebrate the festival of lights; instead, only eight people were allowed inside the temple at a time during a small open house event. The celebration normally draws hundreds.

Arrows on the floor of the temple kept visitors distanced and masks were required, along with hand sanitizer, when entering the temple.

Sreevani Katna, a board member for the Hindu Temple in St. John's, told CBC News a lot of work went into pulling off the event this year.

"We still wanted to give our community members a chance to come and celebrate, and do their prayers in the temple like they normally would have, if it wasn't for COVID," she said. 

The annual cultural show was also cancelled and there were no fireworks to cap off the evening. 

The Hindu Temple went ahead with its Diwali celebrations on Saturday, with Lakshmi Pooja festivities held online in the morning and an in-person open house with a reduced capacity in the evening. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

But the Hindu Temple adapted, Katna said, moving portions of the celebration online in the morning through Zoom.

She said the pandemic has been beneficial in that regard — moving the morning prayer ceremony online allowed people outside St. John's to join the celebration.

"While it was conducted in the temple, we were able to telecast it to our community members via Zoom," she said.

"It went very well, and was well attended." 

The Hindu Temple had been forced to close its doors for a number of months during the pandemic.

It opened again only during the Navaratri festival in October, something Katna said was a big logistical undertaking.

"I think more so in this year, because people are keeping to themselves more often, because of COVID, we wanted to give them that opportunity to come, and feel like they have some place to go if they needed to pray, to have a sense of community," said Katna.

"The Hindu community here is very strong, and we are like a big family because we're all away from our original home."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jeremy Eaton