San Francisco Chronicle

Residents hail festival season

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Tens of thousands of devotees packed the heart of Nepal’s capital on Sunday to celebrate the feast of Indra Jatra, marking the return of the festival season in the Himalayan nation after it was scaled down because of the pandemic.

The weeklong Indra Jatra festival marks the end of monsoon rains and the beginning of autumn.

Volunteers sprayed sanitizer and distribute­d masks to the devotees. Officials, religious leaders and organizers held several meetings before deciding to go ahead with the event.

“If we continue to halt the festival every year because of COVID-19, there is a big chance that our tradition and rituals could just fade away. We want to save our tradition and heritage but at the same time keep everyone safe from the virus,” said Gautam Shakya, a priest.

Kiran Shakya of the government’s Trust Corporatio­n, which is in charge of the festivals, said special security arrangemen­ts were made to control the crowds and follow health protocols.

Nepal has imposed several lockdowns since the pandemic hit. Only 19% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

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