Thousand's throng Alor Setar's Wat Nikrodharam to celebrate Wesak day

ALOR SETAR: Thousands of Buddhists thronged Wat Nikrodharam here, the first time since 2019, when devotees can physically celebrate Wesak Day after the Covid-19 pandemic restricted their physical devotion.

Devotees were seen commemorating Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing into Nirvana, by sticking to the new norms, such as wearing face masks, as they waited patiently for their turn for the ritual bathing of the miniature Buddha, offering and receiving blessings from the Wat's monks.

Wat Nikrodharam chief monk's assistant Lee Bandet said all the activities held between May 12 and May 15 fully complied with the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government.

"We began the preparations for the celebration when we were made aware that worshippers will be allowed to pray physically at the temple.

"We planned all our activities under the SOP. We welcome devotees, but remain cautious.

"Before the celebration, we had updated on our social media page reminding devotees to always put on a mask while they are in the temple compound. We also deployed People's Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel to make sure devotees and visitors observed the SOP.

"Since the pandemic (began), no Covid-19 cases were detected in the temple and among our devotees. I hope we can maintain the good record," he said at the temple today.

Lee said there was a big turnout during the four-day celebration which kicked off on May 12.

"Devotees are excited to celebrate Wesak Day physically this year. The number of visitors that came in for the celebration (this year) are bigger than before the pandemic struck.

"Our temple is open till midnight for these four days and we are seeing enormous crowds for the past nights," he added.

One devotee, Chan Shu Ming, 63, who came with her grandson said, she had been celebrating Wesak Day virtually for the past two years.

"Finally, I can be present physically at the temple to celebrate Wesak Day. I came here today to get blessings and guidance.

"I also use this opportunity to pay my respect to my parents whose urns (ashes) are kept here," she said.

Another devotee, who only wanted to be known as Ooi, said she was glad that the government had finally relaxed the SOP and that physical praying is allowed this year.

"I am using this time to remember Buddha's teachings. I pray the pandemic will end soon and all of us can return to normalcy as soon as possible."

Wesak Day commemorates the day Siddharta Gautama Buddha was born, the day he achieved enlightenment and also the day of his death.

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