AUSTRALIA, March 23, 20202 : Hemangini Patel has been attending her temple every Sunday for as long as she can remember. As a devout Hindu, and member of Sydney’s Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS) community, the weekly “sabha” or congregation is a routine she looks forward to each week. But for the past two Sundays, the religious ritual has looked slightly different. Responding to the government’s restrictions on public gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19, her local BAPS temple replaced the in-person assembly with a live stream.
“Our regular Sunday assemblies tend to confabulate messages of hope, unity and fraternity, so to have those messages as a reminder of what our priorities are in these times, it really helps to keep everyone calm, says Patel.” According to Kunal Patel, BAPS’s national community relations volunteer, the first online assembly was live streamed to 4,500 devices across Australia and New Zealand. “We anticipate that there would’ve been one family per device, so if you take three people per family as conservative estimate, that’s 10 to 11,000 people that would have accessed the stream,” he says. “The most important feedback we received was that for practicing Hindus this is an important milestone, to attend a congregation on a weekly basis, and the fact it’s still accessible puts people at ease.”