Thaipusam

Picture: Thaipusam Murugan (uploaded from Wikimedia)The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are deleted.

The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are deleted.

Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and takes only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.

The preparations start 48 days before the two-day Thaipusam festival. The devotees purge themselves of all mental and physical impurities through prayer and fasting. They take only one vegetarian meal per day and 24 hours before Thaipusam, they must maintain a complete fast.

The devotees prepare themselves by following strict purification austerities that include:
Transcendence of desire
Shaving of the head
Following a vegetarian diet and refraining from alcohol
Sexual abstinence
Bathing in cold water
Sleeping on the floor
Regular prayers

On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.

The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain.

In Singapore, Hindu devotees start their procession at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in the early morning, carrying milk pots as offerings or attaching “kavadis” and spikes pierced on their body. The procession travels for 4 kilometres before finishing at Tank Road, Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.

On the previous day, the deity Lord Sri Thendayuthapani is taken on a procession in the Silver Chariot to Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple and returns in the evening followed by Chettiar Kavadies and other devotees. This event is popularly called as Chetty Pusam in Singapore.

On Thaipusam day, hundreds of devotees offer prayers either by piercing their body with spikes and lemon, pulling a chariot or carrying Kavadis from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. The devotees then offer their prayers and fulfill their vows. The Vel (holy spear) in the sanctum is showered with milk continuously for hours. Several Chinese devotees and people of other religion and races also come to fulfill their vows on this day.

Sri Thendayuthapani temple is celebrating this festival in Singapore for more than hundred years with pomp and splendour. Annathanam (Free Food) is provided from 12.30 pm to 4.00 pm on THAIPUSAM day, at the Chettiar Wedding Hall located within the temple premises.

Although rare, scenes of people from different ethnic groups and faiths bearing “kavadi” can also be seen in Malaysia. Thaipusam is also increasingly being celebrated by the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore.

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Header Photo: Wikimedia
All Text and Content above: Wikipedia

The rest of the photographs were taken by my cousin who was kind enough to share with me the procession she had witnessed with her husband, Norris Low, last night in Little India, Singapore. The 2-day festival started on the 27th and will end approximately midnight 28th January 2013 when the devotees reached their final destination at Tank Road, Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.

Photo Credit: Jamie Lee

Happy holidays 🙂

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