Nepalis pray for health and wisdom as coronavirus curtails crowds at festival By ReutersFebruary 16, 2021
© Reuters. A boy wearing a protective face mask write on the wall of a Saraswati temple during the Shreepanchami festival dedicated to goddess of education Saraswati in belief that the goddess will help devotees excel in education, in Kathmandu
By Navesh Chitrakar
KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Amid sparser crowds than usual, mask-wearing worshippers offered prayers to Hindu goddess of education Saraswati in annual celebrations in Nepal on Tuesday – this year seeking safety from the coronavirus pandemic as well as greater wisdom.
In the Shri Panchami festival, also known as Basant Panchami, devotees visit Saraswati temples to write messages and names on shrine walls in the belief that the goddess will help them excel in education.
At the Saraswati temple in the Swayambhunath stupa – a complex of ancient shrines west of the capital Kathmandu that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – hundreds of visitors thronged buildings from before daybreak, many of them parents instructing their children to chalk their names on walls.
“I wish this year brings happiness in everyone’s life, not like last year because of COVID,” said 22-year-old student Sushma Lamichhane.
COVID-19 infections are decreasing in Nepal, with 112 new infections reported on average each day as of Tuesday. That’s 3% of the peak — the highest daily average reported on Oct. 22 – with some 272,840 infections and 2,055 coronavirus-related deaths reported in the country since the pandemic began.
Other visitors at the Swayambhunath stupa stuck to more traditional prayers.
“I wished my education goes well,” said eight-year-old Bishal Ghimire, with parents watching on.
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