As Festival Season Kicks Off, India Blows Past 6M Cases

Slew of autumn religious celebrations pose new issues for virus-stricken nation
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2020 9:02 AM CDT
India's New Concern: Festivals in the Time of COVID
People play with fireworks during Diwali, the "festival of lights," in Prayagraj, India, on Oct. 27, 2019.   (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The fall months in India are typically celebratory ones, as people get reverent and make merry during Hindu religious fests like Diwali, Dussehra, and Navratri. This year, however, poses a new challenge for the country: It just blew past 6 million COVID-19 cases (with more than 95,000 deaths so far), and officials are now wrangling with how to keep crowds from gathering during the festivals and spreading the virus further. Reuters notes some celebrations—such as the one celebrating Navratri in the state of Gujarat in mid-October—have already been nixed, and organizers of fests in other areas are also anticipating cancellations. The South China Morning Post notes celebrants are making do, finding other ways to mark the occasions, including via livestreaming on Facebook and Zoom.

But the economic impact is a big one, with money pouring out in previous years to flower vendors, dance instructors, concessions suppliers, and security firms, among others. One dance event, for example, could offer jobs to up to 300 people, an event planner tells Reuters. "Our business is in danger," one vendor whose family has been making festival-themed idols for decades adds to the SCMP. Still, others are trying to find the silver lining and not let the virus put a damper on their celebrations. "Though coronavirus was taking over the entire city, we couldn't miss this," an IT professional based in Mumbai says of the recent Ganesh festival. Instead, "I learned everything watching videos online, and it was a great experience." (More India stories.)

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