Festivals are joyous moments for the people. Even if festivities are related to religions, rituals and heroic deeds of divine figures, they bear great social and national significance. They nourished family values and social bond while strengthening national unity and communal harmony. Nepal is rich in festivals and cultural carnivals. Every ethnic nationality has its own festive occasions which have been marked for centuries. A high sense of coexistence, tolerance and harmony has enabled all festivals to co-exist and flourish. Festivals are also the sources of unity among the people of different castes, ethnicities and social and economic status. They form the integral part of the life of Nepalis who derive emotional joy and cultural bliss from them.
The autumn festival of Dashain, which recently concluded, is the biggest cultural celebration of Nepal. It offers an exciting and thrilling moment for the people of all age groups. First and foremost, it is an occasion of family reunion. People receive tika and blessings from their senior relatives. Sons and daughters who live far-away places visit home of their parents and elderly. This creates a sense of union that has been withering away with the increase in nuclear families and migration. However, this year’s Dashain was not very much exciting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was marked with limited festivities and social distancing. The people compromised and limited their religious activities for fear of virus transmission. Barring some exception, the citizens followed the health guidelines prescribed by the health authorities. They observed it by wearing masks and urging relatives not to visit their homes.
Unlike previous years, the President and the Prime Minister did not offer tika to ordinary people. People mostly confined themselves to their homes and refrained from using public transport and mingling into crowds. While physical presence was reduced to a large extent, the virtual platforms attracted many to convey message for adopting safety measures as well as giving Dashain greetings and blessings to friends, relatives and well-wishers. It is nice that senior citizens did not step out of their houses to avoid possible virus infection. Those who went out to receive tika put on masks and maintained physical distancing. A large number of people did not visit villages during the Dashain for the growing mobility could lead to fast transmission of virus. The authorities and public health experts expect that people will abide by health safety protocols during the upcoming Tihar and Chhath festivals as well.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health and Population has, in a public awareness message, asked the people to adopt precautions while shopping and visiting markets during the festive time. According to the news report carried by this daily, the people have been advised to go for online shopping if possible. It is not cup of tea for all to shift to online shopping owing to lack of access to digital knowledge and means. However, it is imperative for one and all to use masks and maintain social distancing during the shopping and meeting with the people. They should buy daily goods from the nearby shops and choose the time when there will be fewer people in the shops. At the same time, they should wash their hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser before and after shopping.