The management board of Tay Ho Temple (Phu Tay Ho) in Tay Ho District, a popular place of worship for devout Buddhists as also foreign tourists, announced its closure 10 days ago over the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, hundreds flocked to the area outside the temple to prepare offerings for the Mother Goddess. The first day of the third lunar month, the death anniversary of Princess Lieu Hanh, venerated by the Vietnamese people as the Mother Goddess of Earth, is a particularly sacred day that attracts a large number of devotees, usually, but this was an unexpected crowd, given the Covid-19 related lockdown announced by Hanoi authorities.
People pray outside the temple on March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue.
Do Ngoc Long, vice chairman of Quang An Ward in Tay Ho District, said that after receiving information about the crowd at the temple, he used loud speakers to advise them to break up and avoid the risk of Covid-19 infection. Around 30 minutes later, they left the temple, he said.
Nguyen Thanh Hoa, a Tay Ho District resident, said she went to the temple to offer incense to the Mother Goddess and stood outside to pray for peace.
Since the 16th century, Vietnamese faithful have gathered at Buddhist pagodas, temples and other sanctuaries to worship a triumvirate of heroic female spirits revered for meting out justice and protecting the nation. All of them are called Mother Goddess.
A sanitation worker said that the number of people coming to the temple on Tuesday was not as large as in the previous months, “but they still covered the entire yard.” His garbage truck was stacked with waste dumped by devotees.
Tay Ho Temple is on the northern bank of the West Lake in Tay Ho District. It is one of the most popular places of worship in Hanoi, and is usually crowded during lunar January, March and July.
People prepare offerings to offer the Mother Goddess at Tay Ho Temple in Hanoi March 24, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hue.
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc had said at a government meeting Tuesday that religious places across the country should stop public gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic rages worldwide.
Before the PM’s order, the Government Committee for Religious Affairs had last Friday requested religious institutes to suspend upcoming major events, which usually gather big crowds at churches, pagodas and temples every year, including the Easter festival in April and the Vesak festival in May.
In early February, the premier had requested all festivals, either still in preparation phase or already launched, to reduce their scale in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The opening ceremonies of many large festivals in northern Vietnam were therefore called off.