Nepal gears for festive preparation as COVID-19 declines

Published on : Monday, September 20, 2021

Nepal, a popular tourist destination for Europeans and Asian tourists is now gearing to allure more domestic and international tourists as COVID-19 diminishes. Right now, Nepal gears for the preparation of festivals that attract major international tourists from the UK, US, India and China.

There are tens of thousands of devotees packed the old palace courtyard in the heart of Nepal’s capital on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.

The weeklong Indra Jatra proceeds months of other festivals in the predominantly Hindu nation.

Kumari, a young girl who is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal as the living goddess, left her temple palace for the first time in two years and was driven around the center of Kathmandu in a wooden chariot pulled by devotees.

The Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and the nation’s highest officials also lined up to get her blessing, together with the tens of thousands of others along the short route from her temple palace and around the heart of the city.

The festival season in Nepal falls around September and October. The festivals in 2020 were scaled down after the government imposed strict restrictions to curb a surge in coronavirus cases.

The security was stepped up and organizers announced plans to control the number of those attending.

The Indra Jatra festival marks the end of monsoon rains and the beginning of autumn. It also celebrates the end of the rice farming season. The armed police guarded the alleys and roads leading to the main courtyard while volunteers sprayed sanitizers and distributed masks to the devotees.

The officials, priests, religious leaders and organisers held several meetings before deciding to go ahead with the public festival.

Kiran Shakya of the government’s Trust Corporation, which is in charge of the festivals, said special security arrangements were made to control the crowds and follow health protocols.

Bishnu Lal shrestha, who was among the throngs of jubilant devotees waiting along the narrow streets to receive Kumari’s blessing, said he was thrilled that the festivals are back after two years.

Nepal has imposed several lockdowns and other restrictions since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to the Nepal Health Ministry, there have been 784,000 confirmed cases with more than 11,000 deaths. Only 19% of the population have been fully vaccinated.

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