By Mitchell Clarke
It’s commonly known as the festival of lights, but not even Covid restrictions could darken the spirits of those celebrating Diwali.
More than 1200 worshippers celebrated the special day on Saturday 14 November in a Covid friendly event at the Officer Sikh temple (Gurdwara Siri Guru Nanak Darbar).
Diwali is the equivalent of Christmas for the Indian and Sikh communities.
Normally, the festival would see people coming to the Gurdwara and offering prayers, mingling with each other, lighting candles and exchanging sweets. A vegetarian community meal, prepared onsite, would also usually be shared.
But like all aspects of life, the Sikh community was forced to rethink their celebrations on the day.
Instead, the day looked a little different with limits in place as to how many people could be on site, and the traditional feast was cancelled.
Prior to the event, the temple’s dedicated volunteers met with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to ensure adequate arrangements were made.
An “elaborate Covid management plan ensured people maintained social distancing at all times while on the premise, and Victoria Police were briefed on all arrangements.
Worshippers who attended were given an instruction sheet detailing out what to do and what not to do. Using different social media platforms, attendees were requested to spread out during the day rather than coming to pray in the evening.Elaborate traffic management plans were also actioned to ensure only two or three families entered the main prayer room, after receiving a temperature check and registering their attendance through a tracking app.
Officer Sikh temple volunteer and spokesperson Harpreet Singh said the day was an “awesome celebration”.
He said the temple was decorated inside and outside the celebrate what is commonly referred to as “the festival of lights”.
Worshippers travelled from Officer, Pakenham, Berwick, Narre Warren and Cranbourne, as well as Drouin and Traralgon to attend.
“Requests and appeals made to the worshippers indeed worked well and more than 1200 worshippers from the catchment could enjoy the celebrations safely and comfortably from 7am to 9pm,” Mr Singh said.
“Some worshippers were very understanding and came on Friday and Sunday instead.”