With the government advocating social distancing to curb further spread of the coronavirus, temples and columbaria are coming up with alternative ways for devotees to observe the Qing Ming Festival.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, for example, has introduced an online service for devotees to order ancestral offerings and book a mass chanting by the monks, without having to be physically present at the temple.
From www.awarenessplace.com, the public can purchase an online ancestral offering bundle of flowers, candles, fruits and other offerings for $48. The food in the bundle will be donated to charity.
“In this current global situation, the online service is not meant to replace traditional practices but is just an alternative for devotees so they can avoid large crowds,” said a Kong Meng San spokesman.
Since the online service was launched on Tuesday, the monastery has seen a take-up rate of 30 per cent. Of the three available dates for mass chanting, April 4 has been fully booked, while devotees can still make bookings for March 28 and April 10.
The monastery will also be streaming the Dedication of Merits to the Departed ritual live on its Facebook page on April 4, as the rite will be closed to the public.
Its columbarium and ancestral tablet halls will also be closed to the public. Instead, devotees can conduct prayers at its multi-storey carpark and open-air tentage.
Kong Meng San typically sees about 300,000 devotees visiting its premises for the Qing Ming Festival, with up to 50,000 visitors a day during peak periods.
Kong Meng San, the Singapore Buddhist Federation (SBF) and the Taoist Federation have also urged the public, especially the elderly and those from vulnerable groups, to avoid observance of the festival in temples and columbaria.
Devotees who still wish to visit the temples or columbaria for ancestral offerings and prayers should do so during off-peak periods and in small groups, they added.
Meanwhile, Singapore Kwong Wai Siew Peck San Theng columbarium announced on Thursday that ancestral prayers at its premises will not be allowed on weekends and public holidays between March 21 and April 19. The public may offer prayers on site only on weekdays between 8am and 6pm. General manager Liu Khee Fang said that last year, between 50,000 and 60,000 devotees visited the columbarium during the Qing Ming Festival.
JUST AN OPTION
In this current global situation, the online service is not meant to replace traditional practices but is just an alternative for devotees so they can avoid large crowds.
A KONG MENG SAN SPOKESMAN
Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of SBF, said the public is encouraged to make alternative arrangements to observe the Qing Ming Festival during this period.
For example, smaller groups of just one or two family members can consider praying on site, or families can observe the festival at home.
“These may be different from the usual observations but what matters more is that devotees carry the same mindset of showing gratitude to their ancestors. After all, their health is more important, and I’m sure their ancestors will understand,” he added.