The thing with Covid-19 is that it has not only crushed opportunities through job losses and restrictions on travel but also caused massive changes in how ceremonies and religious practices are taking place around the world.
It’s often the economic effect that is in the limelight, but it is the cultural impact of Covid-19 which may change the very roots of various human practices. That “Once in a Lifetime Opportunity” is what we all crave for. An opportunity to have that perfect job, marry the perfect partner, enter into our dream college, or just going on a solo trip results in butterflies. No matter how eagerly you are waiting for something with your entire faith, things can always turn out in the opposite direction. Missing on these once in a lifetime opportunities, not being able to celebrate the most awaited festivals of the year, common lifestyle changes, or even a slight change in how ceremonies and religious practices take place, tend to have negative psychological impacts on all of us.
INSTANT EFFECT OF COVID-19
Apart from fear, income loss, and the skyrocketing price of masks, what almost everyone faced was an abrupt lockdown. With immediate effect, graduation ceremonies witnessed postponement or cancellation. The situation was no different for marriages, birthday celebrations, anniversary celebrations, inaugurations, corporate ceremonies, college festivals, food festivals, concerts, conventions, conferences, award ceremonies, stage performances, etc. This was also accompanied by a disruption in all kinds of religious movements and celebrations. Lifestyles changed instantly with virtual ceremonies and worship all around the world.
OUTCOMES OF COVID-19:
DISRUPTION IN RELIGIOUS PRACTICES
With COVID-19, major religious and sacred places of worship closed for the general public, halting pilgrimage. All major temples (Vaishno Devi, Jyotirlingas), mosques (in Mecca and Medina), churches (St. Peter’s Basilica), gurudwaras (Golden Temple) and monasteries shut their doors. On top of this, the idea of virtual worship doesn’t appeal to devoted pilgrims. The celebration of festivals has faced severe disruptions and changes. In any other year, the month of April would be cherished all around the globe with people celebrating Navratri, Ramnavami, Ramadan, Easter, Vaisakhi, Passover, and mass gatherings in places of worship. But this year, everything about festival celebrations has been restricted to homes or virtually on-screens. In the future, there is a possibility of Hajj and Kumbh Mela being canceled, which attracts millions of pilgrims from all around the world.
DISRUPTION IN CEREMONIES
Many dreamt of walking the stage for receiving degrees in convocation whereas others wished of marrying and celebrating events in front of a huge crowd. But with Covid-19, the term “virtual ceremonies” seems far more concrete and realistic. Virtual ceremonies have started taking place and it sure depicts the futuristic lifestyle we may live some decades from now. One might argue that things will remain as they are in the long run, but the thoughts of personal hygiene and social distancing have been too deeply ingrained in the human brain. Concerts, award ceremonies, and anything involving a stage performance with a large crowd have to be done away with at least for a year, only if we are fortunate enough not to witness any second wave of the pandemic which would devastate the situation even further. The future definitely lies in the hands of virtual ceremonies with acing technological changes.
DISRUPTION IN MARRIAGES
The big fat Indian weddings, where an average Indian spends 1/5th of his/her savings, will change. Millions of job losses, thanks to Covid-19, will ensure a fall in the number of guests being a part of the celebration and the couple will be forced to prioritize. The long time gap between finalizing the marriage and actually getting married will get reduced due to constant mental awareness of the occurrence of unforeseen circumstances. The rituals that take place over 3 days to a week in a few cases will get restricted and the focus will shift to completing everything in a couple of days. This will hit the hitherto ever-growing industry in all segments. Similar changes along with social distancing will be observed in weddings and other ceremonies all around the world. On a realistic note, no matter how virtual things may get, the idea of a virtual wedding doesn’t stand a chance in the most important day of one’s life.
DISRUPTION IN FUNERALS
The most astonishing impact of Covid-19 has been the change in funerals. The restrictions due to Covid-19 has led to changes in rituals of death and mourning. Family members of the deceased are not allowed to have any contact whatsoever with the body. Mass burial sites are being made by governments. The altered funeral formats are very unpleasant for many. The officers are seen reluctant to touch the coffin. In many places, only 5-10 close family members were allowed to see the deceased and social distancing was to be maintained while burning or burying the deceased.
IMPACT OF CANCELLATION/POSTPONEMENT
Ceremonies and religious practices play an important role in community life as it has several benefits. The emotional attachment and connection that sparks when each and every member of the family comes together for a good common purpose is a natural therapy for distressed family members. Stronger and resilient communities are formed as a result, which shares common beliefs. Cancellation of ceremonies (or virtual ceremonies) and disruption in religious practices hit natural therapy and is a fine example of the cultural impact of Covid-19. Actual participants are impacted emotionally and the backend participants financially. Florists, DJs, kaarigars (Craftsmen), workers, bands, photographers, hotels, planners, waiters, travel agencies, aircraft, restaurants, chefs, and other small businesses face direct job losses and financial distress.
Experiencing lifestyle change is common to all today. Everything is focused and linked to hygiene and social distancing. Future possibility of greeting guests with trays of sanitizers and by hands wearing gloves is extremely realistic. Although the cultural impact of Covid-19 can be witnessed through changes in how ceremonies and religious practices are taking place, some aspects will revive and remain as they have been for centuries. However, some other aspects might go through a permanent change. In virtual terms, sad emoji has been commonly used by displeased individuals who were not able to act or have things as they wished. Even though some virtual ceremonies are taking place, the entire feel around them has changed. After all, it’s almost a year lost in financial terms and opportunities lost in emotional terms. The need is to support the world to fight the pandemic. Values have been developed from centuries of practice and will not change if one year or so doesn’t go as planned.