How are British Hindus and Mandirs coping with the Coronavirus lockdown?

8th June 2020   •   video
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How are British Hindus being affected by the Coronavirus lockdown? What have mandirs been doing and are they hoping to open up soon? What would that look like?

These are some of the questions I wanted to explore with two senior members from Shree Sanatan Mandir in Leicester, one of the oldest and largest Hindu temples in Britain. Vibhuti Acharya is President and Bharti Acharya is secretary of the management committee.

Like Gurdwaras and Mosques, many of Britain's biggest Mandirs have faced immense challenges during lockdown too.

They have lost their incomes, their congregations and seen a big jump in deaths of community members. At the same time they are all trying to connect with people through the internet.

Vibhuti Acharya told me the biggest impact has been on elderly Hindus. "It has affected their mental wellbeing. Especially the ones who are totally on their own."

The mandir has been strongly affected itself. 2020 was their big 50th anniversary since they opened; it is one of the oldest temples in Britain.

“This was one year we were going to attract far more people to the mandir. The lockdown has an impact on our income and our membership."

The temple relies on donations of course. And there is no doubt that its employees such as cooks and cleaners are feeling the pinch. How are they going to manage a return to normality?

"It's a challenge. There’s still a lot of preparation we need to do beforehand, so the temple is also a safe place for the elderly. It's still early days."

The mandir has started live streaming on social media. "At least they feel the temple is coming to them."

Vibhuti told me they initially expected the lockdown would be short. But the length has strained the community and forced them to change how they work. "We thought the lockdown would be a few weeks, it would be fine," Vibhuti told me.

They are consulting and feeding into national Hindu organisations, who in turn are speaking to the government on how to open up safely. But they expect it will be months before any big festivals or events can take place.

"There are a lot of implications and a lot of planning that we need to get right as well. We need to make sure the temple is a safe place for them to come to."

The mandir is looking into making numerous changes to ensure the health and safety of visitors, which they both explain in the interview.

What advice did they have for Hindus? “Our motto has been, stay at home, pray at home,” they say.

One of the biggest areas people are struggling with is passing of their loved ones. "People have come to us and said we couldn’t even say goodbye to them."

The mandir has now created audio tools for the community, "so people can say goodbye to their loved ones the right way."
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Mita is a newspaper columnist, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapist, Acupuncturist and expert in other healing techniques.
Earlier articles by Mita Mistry

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