ECONOMYNEXT – COVID 19 will deal a devastating blow to places like Kandy and Kataragama as crowds are banned from gathering for the massive festivals these places attract annually, according to a directive issued by the Presidential Secretariat yesterday June 12.
“The public is not allowed to participate and view” the processions at any religious place this year according to instructions issued to the public by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, a Media Statement issued by the Presidential Secretariat said.
The annual Dalada Perehera, the iconic internationally famous pageant, brings around a million people every year to Kandy.
Many businesses in the hill capital make most of their annual income during the two week season.
President Rajapaksa has issued directives that all the rituals must be held as normal.
The other festivals at Kataragama, Devinuwara and Sabaragamuwa will also be held while adhering to the health guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus, therefore no crowds.
There was no mention of the Nallur Kandasamy Temple festival on the Jaffna Peninsula which is also traditionally held in August and attracts pilgrims from around the world.
The ban extends to the annual pilgrim walk to Kataragama by devotees who traditionally come from Nallur, Jaffna, Trincomalee and from several other parts of Eastern Province to participate in the Kataragama Perehera.
One of the great Sri Lankan traditions that brings all ethnic groups together, the annual trek, through some thickly forested areas infested with wild animals to worship the Kataragama deity has also been celebrated internationally.
The Presidential Task Force for Prevention of COVID-19 has also ordered that all the processions must be conducted with the minimum number of artistes and participants who have to follow the Health Department guidelines such as Social Distancing.
All participants must obtain a COVID 19 free certificate from the local health authority.
Water Cutting Ceremonies which signal the end of the season should also be attended by the minimum possible number of people.
The Dalada Perehera will be telecast live as usual, the media statement said. (Colombo, June 13, 2020)
Reported by Arjuna Ranawana