~ Thaipusam Festival ~
Festival Date -
07 Feb 2012
Thaipusam celebrates the day
Goddess Parvati bestowed upon her son the vel or lance to vanquish
the evil demon, Soorapadam. This lance denotes spiritual insight,
ability to differentiate right from wrong, righteousness and
However, for many Hindus, Thaipusam has
come to mean the birthday of Lord Subramaniam, also known as lord
Muruga, the younger son of Lord Shiva.
Hindus celebrate Thaipusam on the tenth month of their calendar.
It coincides with the full moon at the end of January and beginning
of February 'Thai' is the Hindu month which falls between January 15
to February 15 and 'Pusam' refers to a star which is at its
brightest during the period of this festival.
Celebrated in all parts of the world where there is a concentration
of South Indians, the manifestation of the festival is best
witnessed in Malaysia at Batu Caves and Penang. The manifestation of
the festival is best witnessed at Batu Caves, which is 10km from
Kuala Lumpur. The festivities cantered at Batu Caves is an exciting
and thrilling spectacle but it also gets very crowded and
claustrophobic and you need a lot of patience.
In K. Lumpur, it culminates in a three-day Thaipusam festival which begins
from Sri Mahamariaman Temple at Jalan Tun H.S. Lee in Chinatown and
ends at Batu Caves. On the eve of the celebration, Lord Murugas
image is decorated with diamonds, rubies and other jewels. The Idols
together with those of his two consorts Valli and Deivayani
represent the spiritual and worldly energies (shakti), is placed on
a bed of flowers with burning incense on the sides. In the wee hours
of the morning, the five-tonne chariot is pulled by two bulls and
hundred of devotees on its 15 km journey from Chinatown to Batu
Caves. The procession weaves through major streets of the city and
takes about 8 hours to reach its destination. A prayer ceremony is
held at the foot of the caves and the flag of Lord Muruga is hoisted
to announce the commencement of the celebrations.
Leading up to the event, Hindus prepare themselves by fasting,
praying and observing austerities. Devotees carry offerings and
climb the 272 steps to the main cave to seek forgiveness for past
deeds or to thank Lord Muruga for wishes granted. Some devotees
carry the Kavadi, a wooden arch with two pots of or honey at its
end, decorated with peacock feathers. However bearing a simple pot
of milk up to the shrine is all that is required
Kavadi (offering) carriers are devotees who
have requested favours,
have had the favour granted or wish to atone for past misdeeds.
Kavadi (offering) carriers are devotees who have requested favours,
and have had their favour granted or wish to atone for past misdeeds.
Usually, a vow is made to carry the kavadi for one, three, five or
even seven years in succession. Common requests are recovery from
illness, success in examinations or business or to beget progeny.
Only a small number of women devotees pierce their bodies. Most of
them carry pots of milk or a pair of coconuts slung across their
shoulders instead. Traditional musical instruments are played, and
chants of "Vel, Vel" fill the air.
These forms of offerings are overshadowed by more elaborate ones
with huge metal frames and bedecked with decorations in the belief
that the larger the kavadi the more resolute is ones devotion.
Skewers protruding through cheeks and metal hooks and spikes are
also to be seen. This is a quaint evolution of the celebrations not
found in Hindu Scriptures and its origins are lost in antiquity.
Hinduism advocates that the body should not be harmed as the body is
akin to a temple that the soul resides in. Some devotees however,
choose to believe that the only way to salvation is to endure a
penance of pain and hardship. However, they are able to tolerate
this ordeal of pain as they are in a trance-like state. There is no
blood and they prepare themselves for this by undergoing specific
rites during the preceding month.
Austerities are followed and the body and soul disciplined to
refrain from all forms of worldly activities. The devotees overcomes
any form of pain as their minds are attuned to only one thing
spirituality and liberation from worldly desires.
the devotees bath in the nearby river, they go into trance and have
the kavadi placed on their shoulders or their body pierced, they
walk from the river to the temple grounds and climb up the steps to
the caves main temple high above. On reaching, they lay down their
kavadi and the milk or honey offering is poured on the statue of the
deity as an act of thanksgiving, Those with hooks and skewers have a
priest chant over them as the metal implements are removed and the
wounds treated with hot ash. There is not a drop of blood, no pain
and even more amazing, no scarring at all.
In other places in Malaysia, the festival is also celebrated. In George Town,
Penang, it centred at the Natukkotai Chettair
Temple at Jalan Kebun Bunga. To watch the celebration in
Ipoh, go to
the Kallumalai Arul Temple at Jalan Raja Musa on the banks of the
Sungai Kinta. On Pangkor Island, the Thaipusam procession starts
from Pasir Bogak and ends at the Sri Pathirakaliaman Temple on the
The crowds at all venues are huge, especially in Batu Caves.
Interested visitors are strongly advised to go there on the eve of
the festival and preferably at night to avoid the sweltering day-sun
heat and the crowd on the festival day itself.
information - details -