KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 27 — More than a million people, Hindus and tourists alike, thronged Lord Murugan temples in the country today in conjunction with the Thaipusam celebration. While Hindu devotees fulfilled their vows by carrying the “kavadi” or pots of milk, the tourists were mesmerised by the unique celebration where the ‘kavadi’ bearers had spikes pierced onto their bodies as they fulfilled their penance for answered prayers.
The crowds were the biggest at the three major Lord Murugan temples — the Sri
Subramaniyar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves just outside Kuala Lumpur, the Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple or Waterfall Temple in George Town, Penang, and the Sri Subramaniyar Swamy Temple in Gunong Cheroh, Ipoh.
Thaipusam, included in the tourism calendar of Malaysia, falls on the full moon day in the Tamil month of “Thai” and is celebrated over three days. On the first day (yesterday), a chariot bearing the idol of Lord Murugan goes on a procession through the streets, usually starting at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple, to the Lord Murugan temple. The fulfilling of vows by devotees takes place on the second day. On the third day, the chariot bearing the idol of Lord Murugan returns to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
Sri Maha Mariamman is regarded by Hindus as the mother of Lord Murugan. Thaipusam is a celebration to remember the day Lord Murugan received the “vel” (sacred spear) from his mother to kill the demon Soorapadman.
Hindus and tourists were seen in large numbers at the Sri Subramaniyar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves, the devotees fulfilling their vows for answered prayers and the tourists mesmerised by the spectacle of the celebration.
Many of the devotees had gathered at the cave, located high up in the limestone hill and which can be reached by climbing 272 steps, three to four days earlier.
Some of the devotees fulfilled their vows by shaving bald, some carried ‘pal kudam’ or pots of milk and some, in a trance, carried colourfully decorated ‘kavadi’ with their bodies pierced with metal spikes.
Devotee D. Rathalakshmi fulfilled a vow by going bald as her husband had recovered from a road accident.
“After a knee surgery, my husband regained his health,” said the nurse of a government hospital. Among the tourists in Batu Caves was photographer Rhonda Walker of Abu Dhabi,
who described the celebration as “so unique but yet amazing”.
“This is my first time seeing this. I flew here yesterday from Abu Dhabi just to see the celebration,” she said. Another tourist, Dani Rohdes of South Africa, said Thaipusam was a unique and colourful celebration.
About 1,300 policemen and members of the People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) had their hands full ensuring order as crowds surged forward to watch the ‘kavadi’ processions while traffic policemen ensured smooth flow of traffic along the roads near the temple, particularly the Middle Ring Road 2 (MRR2).