KATHMANDU, NEPAL, September 29, 2020 : The old palace courtyard packed with hundreds of thousands of people each year during the Indrajatra festival is deserted, the temples are locked and all public celebrations are banned by the government to curb the coronavirus. Autumn is the festival season in predominantly Hindu Nepal, where religion, celebrations and rituals are big parts of lives, but people this year will have to scale down their rituals within their homes. A lockdown was ordered around the eight days when the canceled Indrajatra festival would have been held, and instead, a small ceremony to seek forgiveness from Indra, the Hindu God of rain, was held under government security.
During the festival, Kumari [the article probably refers to the Royal Kumari and Kathmandu, Trishna Shakya], a girl revered as the living Goddess, is taken around the core part of Kathmandu in a chariot pulled by devotees. After the cancellation, she has never left her temple palace. Her chariot is locked in the shed and armed police guard the courtyards. “There would be hundreds of thousands of devotees crowding the courtyard and streets during the festival which would have put so many of them at the risk of getting the coronavirus,” said Kumari’s chief caretaker Gautam Shakya. “We had to stop this centuries-old festival for the first time ever.” Nepalese authorities imposed a strict coronavirus lockdown in March that was eased in July. More than 76,000 people have been infected and 491 have died. But the ban of outdoor festivals and religious gatherings continues and temples remain locked.