FOR the first time ever, Tamils, Malayalees and Sikhs will observe their respective major festivals on April 14 but, this time, on a lowkey at their respective homes due to the virus pandemic Movement Control Order.

These festivals are Chittirai Puttandu New Year for the Tamils; Vishu of the (Malayalees) and Vaisakhi of the (Sikhs).

Usually celebrated on a grand scale nationwide for the Indian community annually this would be the first time the three festivals will be observed quietly.

Initially supposed to be lifted on April 14, the MCO has been extended until the end of the month.

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk RS Mohan Shan advised the Tamil community to celebrate Chittirai Puthandu at home with their families.

“This year, the new year begins at 10.04 pm on April 13 but the prayers will take place on the next day. The prayers can be held at home (on April 14) because of the MCO. You don’t have to go to the temple,” he told Bernama.

The birth of the Tamil month of Chittirai is marked annually on the first day of the Tamil solar calendar, known this year as the Sarvari Year.

Malaysia Hindhudhrama Maamandram president Sri Radhakrishan Alagamalai, echoing a similar view, said the best way to observe the festival during the MCO period was to have a simple celebration but in keeping with Tamil culture and traditions.

“God is giving the time for all of us to celebrate with our families. Use this time wisely to observe the occasion with our (respective) families without going out. Cook the traditional vegetarian meals and enjoy with family members at home,” he was quoted over the national news agency.

President of the Malaysian Hindu Malayalee Cultural & Traditional Association (PAKAR Malayalee Malaysia), Dr N R Nambiar, advised the Malayalee community to exercise  simplicity in celebrating Vishu.

Vishu marks the first day of the Zodiac New Year, the first day of the month called Medam, according to the official panjangam (almanac) of Sri Guruvayoorappan Devaswom KeralaKerala Mathrubumi PanjangamKerala Valya Panjangam and Kerala Manorama Panjangam.

Malayalees believe that the new year will be better if one views auspicious joyful things as the first thing on Vishu.

“People can prepare the Vishukkani, which is a panorama of auspicious items, with just bananas, betel leaves, flowers, Tulasi (holy basil), Konnapoo (Cassia fistula flower), sacred Hindu texts, money, grains, rice and an image of Lord Krishna.

Prepared by the eldest female in the family, one can use flowers from the garden and not buy particular flowers from the florist. The occasion can be a social gathering with the family at home,” he said.

He said a small celebration among family members with minimal traditional food and prayers will still be meaningful, especially during the MCO period.

Nambiar also called on Malaysian Malayalees to pray for Malaysia and the world to be free from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sikh Naujawan Sabha Malaysia (SNSM) former president Pavandeep Singh told Bernama this year Vaisakhi, which is also a spring harvest festival, will be celebrated electronically – e-Vaisakhi – where the community can continue to enjoy the bliss of kirtan (devotional singing) by renowned ragi jathas (devotional singing groups).

He said the NGO SIKHinside has started streaming live Satsang or spiritual discourses via the SIKHinside Facebook page as Sikhs cannot congregate at the Gurdwara for these activities during the MCO period.

The Seri Harmandar Sah]o in Punjab, India could be devoid of followers of faith due to the Covid-19 virus and rules on mass gatherings.

This year’s Vaisakhi celebration is special as it allows us to celebrate by being much closer with our loved ones. Taking it positively, the call to stay safe in our homes does not mean we cannot celebrate this joyful occasion.

“Make cookies and all the other favourite delicacies and use the social media to be in touch with all your other family members and friends,” he said.

The virtual Satsang started on March 23 and will continue until April 14. Akhand Path, continuous non-stop recital of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji religious scripture, will also be streamed live from 8 am on April 12 to 8.30 am on April 14.

In Thailand, authorities have imposed a temporary alcohol sales ban, beginning this weekend until April 20, to prevent social gatherings during Thai new year’s Songkran festival. Songkran is Thais’ New Year national holiday

The ban was imposed to stop people from gathering and drinking during the festival despite the government’s announcement that the celebration to be postponed to a later date this year.

Besides Bangkok, several other provinces such as Chiang Mai, Rayong, Buriram and Nakhon Pathom had already banned alcohol sales in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic.

Thailand declared a state of emergency from March 26 to April 30.  It also imposed a 6-hour night curfew from 10 pm to 4 am daily to slow the outbreak.

In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen declared the cancellation of traditional New Year celebrations in order to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The government will give citizens five days off later when the pandemic has been lifted.

Hun Sen explained the move was aimed at curbing mass gatherings and travels to home provinces during the occasion.

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