Coronavirus: Hindu chariot and foot procession here cancelled

People taking part in festivities at the Panguni Uthiram festival in Yishun Industrial Park A on March 21, 2019. The Panguni Uthiram chariot and foot procession this year has been cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak. PHOTO: TAMIL MURASU

SINGAPORE - The Panguni Uthiram chariot and foot procession, which is part of the annual Panguni Uthiram festival, will be cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The festival, slated for April 6 this year, is celebrated by Hindus and held in honour of the Hindu god Murugan.

Devotees usually bear kavadis and carry chariots and milk pots as they walk about 1.2km to seek blessings and fulfil their vows.

The temple management committee at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple in Yishun decided to scrap the procession this year, citing coronavirus clusters which appeared at large gatherings in crowded settings, including places of worship.

The committee had discussed alternative options but found it "difficult to organise a scaled-down procession", said temple chairman Narainasamy in a statement on Sunday (March 15).

He added: "In addition, maintaining social distancing among devotees and keeping contact tracing records will be very challenging. In arriving at this decision, we took the view that the health and safety of our devotees is paramount."

Every year, the Panguni Uthiram chariot and foot procession draws 10,000 to 15,000 devotees who gather in close proximity with one another; both along the procession route and in the temple.

The procession takes place within Yishun Industrial Park A, where the temple is located.

The committee said priests will still conduct prayers on the day but will limit the number of devotees in the temple to not more than 250.

The decision comes after the Government implemented social distancing measures last Friday as a major line of defence in the battle against Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The measures involve not having more than 250 attendees at large private functions and religious services.

Staff and priests at the temple already have their temperature checked twice daily, but from Monday, this will also be extended to devotees who visit the temple.

It will also limit the number of devotees in the temple at any given time to 250.

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