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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thaipusam Festival

Today is the Thaipusam Festival Day. This is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). It is celebrated not only in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where Tamil communities are smaller, e.g. Malaysia and Singapore. In Malaysia, this festival would be a grand celebration at the Batu Caves of Selangor and Penang. The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival.

Devotees like Avinash Gooransingh prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approx-48 days before Thaipusam. 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.

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. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.

Many foreign tourists like to see the Thaipusam Festival at the Batu Caves as all the amazing people could be seen there, e.g. Spear pierced through tongues/cheeks, hooks stuck at the back and carrying the heavy kavadi. Thus the tourists would take many photographs on this day. Personally, I think those devotees are really strong and powerful.

I think Malaysia is a very amazing country as there are 3 festive seasons celebrated by the 3 major races started from 5/2/2012 until 7/2/2012 in this year. As 5/2/2012 was the Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday, celebrating by the Muslims, the Chap Goh Meh Festival on 6/2/2012 which was celebrating by the Chinese and today, 7/2/2012, the Thaipusam Festival which was celebrating by Indians. Thus as the Malaysians we are, could have experience the 3 various seasons. Do you think of another country would have such celebrations besides our neighbour country, Singapore?! Well, I think this is one of the beautiful of our country! 

Lastly, I want to wish all the people who are celebrating the Thaipusam Festival, Happy Thaipusam Festival and happy holiday to those who are not celebrating it! Cheers!

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