SINGAPORE – While some devotees turned up at Hindu temples to offer their prayers and mark Deepavali on Saturday (Nov 14), others did so online from home.

The live-streaming was done to allow people, particularly seniors and those who were unable to make the journey, to be part of the celebration.

This year’s Deepavali has been “very muted”, said Mr Raja Segar, chief executive of the Hindu Endowments Board.

“People understand that they can’t have big gatherings. But some of them felt that they should spend a short time at the temples, and we wanted to allow them to do that.”

The pandemic did not dampen the festive atmosphere at many temples, where measures were in place to keep the crowds manageable.

Temperature checks were carried out and barricades set up to direct visitors at the four HEB-managed temples – Sri Mariamman, Sri Srinivasa Perumal, Sri Vairavimada Kaliamman and Sri Sivan. Most devotees stayed for a short while before making their way out.

When The Sunday Times visited the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road, temperature screening was conducted and floor markers ensured visitors kept a 1m distance from one another.

Unlike many others this Deepavali, cleaning operations manager Ravi M G Rajasagaran did not spend the bulk of his day celebrating the festival with his family.

Instead, Mr Ravi, 38, set aside about 10 hours to commemorate the occasion with migrant workers at dormitories, including buying them food.

“These workers are away from their families and might feel left out,” he said. “I wanted to cheer them up.”

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Mr Ravi only headed home in the late evening to have dinner with his family, including his 30-year-old wife Mahaletchumi Asokan and two young children, Theevinesshvaren Ravi, seven, and Luutikaa Naidu Ravi, four.

“The celebrations this year are different with Covid-19, but we are fortunate that we can spend it together,” he added.

Politicians also took to social media on Saturday to convey their well-wishes.

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam wished all Indians celebrating the festival and “everyone who treasures Singapore’s multicultural diversity” a happy Deepavali.

His post recalled a visit two years ago to the ancient Hindu temple ruins of My Son in Vietnam.

The temple complex is a reminder of the interaction of cultures that made today’s South-east Asia, said Mr Tharman, adding that “today’s cultures in the region have evolved over centuries, each reflecting some combination of local, Chinese, Malay, Indian, Arab and European influences”.

“They are all what has made South-east Asia’s heritage so rich and complex,” he noted.

Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh said it was “heartwarming to experience residents of different faiths and beliefs extending Deepavali wishes to their Indian neighbours and friends” during his estate walk in Eunos.

Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan recognised the migrant workers who are separated from their families but still commemorating the occasion.

He added that despite Deepavali having to be celebrated in small groups due to the pandemic, the festival is also reminder that “there is always a victory, for hope and for wisdom, even in difficult times”.

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