Bay Area marks a much quieter Diwali with mix of tradition and COVID-19 rules

FREMONT, Calif. (KGO) -- Inside the oldest Hindu Temple in the Bay Area on Saturday night, a much quieter celebration of Diwali, even as the community maintained some traditions -- prayers, dozens of burning diyas, families spending time together.

But, there are also signs this is unlike any other year -- the x's on the floor, masks, hand sanitizers .. and the room -- a limited capacity. On any other year, the Fremont temple would be overflowing.

"It's humbling, it's somber but it's a hope for the future," said Yogi Chugh, a community leader, "It's really the idea of how do we come together and hope for prosperity for everybody, when will this pandemic end?"

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The festival of lights celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

Diwali is one of the most important traditions in the Hindu faith, celebrated during the holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar. In the Bay Area, tens of thousands attend events during the five-day celebration, this year, that's just not possible.

"We are just having a small celebration with people who have been in our COVID bubble," said Dr. Shereen Bhalla with the Hindu American Foundation, a non-partisan organization.

This year, they sent out a Diwali toolkit to spread awareness about the celebration. It was welcome news that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, tweeted this greeting: "Wishing a very happy #Diwali to all those celebrating in California and around the world! May the victory of light over darkness inspire all of us."

Dr. Bhalla says she looks forward to seeing Diwali celebrated in the White House again.

Back at the Fremont Hindu temple, prayers for better days ahead too and also gratefulness for the opportunity to celebrate all.

"My hope is that everyone is safe and no one gets affected by this pandemic really," said AashrithYedavalli, who came with his family.

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