Bay Area Hindu temples welcome indoor worship nod

RITU JHA

Hindu temples in the San Francisco Bay Area in California have welcomed the United States Supreme Court’s decision to allow worship indoors.

Acharya Krishna Kumar Pandey, founder and president of the Shiv Durga Temple in Sunnyvale, told indica News that he welcomed the ruling, especially because “a series of Hindu festivals are upcoming.”

He said in December indoor worship was allowed to resume and then again banned.

You cannot leave the Gods alone and so essential rituals have to go on,” said Pandey, who since the pandemic has been using Facebook to reach out to the Hindu American community through daily prayers and rituals.

Asked how he managed to perform necessary rituals during the pandemic, he said: “It was hard. A few funeral rituals, mainly of people who died due to Covid-19, it’s sad but we had no option and we had to perform the rituals over Zoom.”

On January 5, the US Supreme Court ruled that California Governor Gavin Newsom’s orders banning indoor church services may violate the Constitution’s protections on religion. And thus the court lifted the ban on indoor religious gatherings.

Santa Clara County, which had earlier refused to follow the Supreme Court ruling, on February 8 announced reluctantly indoor worship services may resume, though only aat 20 percent of a facility’s capacity, subject to all the requirements for indoor gatherings in the county’s gatherings directive.

The county said in a press note that the “amendment to the County’s Health Orders is due to a temporary order from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.”

County counsel James R Williams was quoted as saying: “We are disappointed by the temporary order of the federal district court. Covid-19 continues to pose a serious risk in our community, and unfortunately no court decision can decree otherwise. The county has consistently had a legal framework for its health orders that respects well-established constitutional precedent.”

All other indoor gatherings remain prohibited. And indoor worship services may only proceed subject to all other state and local safety protocols, including mandatory face coverings, social distancing, and the prohibition on singing and chanting indoors.

Balwant Birla, chairman of the Sunnyvale Hindu Temple in Santa Clara, told indica News that they had placed the Shiva Linga outside for devotees to come and worship.

I paid $2,000 to the tent company, a three-month rent fee,” Birla said.

He said that it had been tough since last year, and was thankful for the donation money that helped the temple sustain during the pandemic.

He said none of the 11 people on the temple’s payroll had been laid off.

Birla was also worried about how to detect and turn away an asymptomatic Covid positive person. “You cannot stop people from worshipping God,” he said.