|Thaipusam , Thai Poosam|
Murugan during Thaipusam.
|Observed by||Religiously by Tamil Hindus.|
|Type||Religious, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Fiji , South Africa and Singapore|
|Significance||The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel, so that he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.|
|Date||decided by the Tamil calendar|
|2012 date||February 7|
|2013 date||January 27 or 28|
|2014 date||Friday, 17 January 2014|
Thaipusam (Tamil: தைப்பூசம், Taippūcam ?)is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). It is mainly observed in countries where there is a significant presence of Tamil community such as India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia,1 Mauritius2 Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar3
The word Thaipusam is a combination of the name of the month, Thai, and the name of a star, Pusam. This particular star is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month (May/June), is Murugan's birthday.4
Skanda (or Murugan) was created during one of the battles between the Asuras (or to be more specific Soorapadman) and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former. The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognize that day the people created the festival.
According to Skanda Puranam, the legend of Murugan, and Thirupugal which are divine verses on Murugan, adhere to Shaivam principles, Murugan is Shivan’s lights form and devotees pray to him as a wisdom of God. Murugan is the wisdom form of Shivan. The motive of Thaipusam festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that bad traits are deleted.5
Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War.6 It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasizes debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.7
Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee's son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him.
Devotees like Avinash Gooransingh prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approximately 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 take 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.
In Palani, Tamil Nadu, India, Thousands of devotees flock to Palani and attend kavadi. According to palani.org, "The number of kavadis reaching Palani for Thai Pusam is about 10,000. For Pankuni Uttiram, 50,000 kavadis arrive. It is kavadi to your right, kavadi to your left, kavadi in front of you, kavadi behind you, kavadi above you and kavadi below you."8
In Vadalur (Cudalore district), Saint Vallalar (1823–1874)(Ramalinga Adigalar) established Sathya Gnana Sabai(Lotus Temple). He kept 7 Screens and Camphor lighted Jothi every thaipusam day at 6am, 10am, 1 pm, 7 pm, 10 pm, and the next day 5:30 in this temple. Every monthly Pusam day 7 pm half screen Jothi Darshan performing. This was established in the year 1872, which is the Arutperumjothi Darshan. It can be seen monthly once and yearly six times only, on the state Government Declare local Holiday for the cudalore district.
In Karamana, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Satyavageeswara temple. The utsava moorthy is taken in procession on a vahanam (mount). There is nel(Paddy)parai alappu or Nel alavu, as a ritual performed for good luck and prosperity.
In Cheriyanad Subrahmanya Swami Temple, Chengannur, Alappuzha District, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam is celebrated with more than 500 Kavadis. The rituals are followed in strict manner.
In Nallur, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Nallur Kandhasamy Temple. Many Tamil devotees irrespective of religion take part in celebrations. Even Tamils from Roman Catholic faith and Muslims take part in Thai Pusam celebrations and take Kavadis.
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The largest Thaipusam celebrations take place in Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore.9 It is a public holiday in several states in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Malacca, Johor, Negeri Sembilan.
ThaiPusam in Malaysia
In Malaysia, the temple at Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, often attracts over one million devotees and tens of thousands of tourists.10 The procession to the caves starts at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur in the heart of the city and proceeds for 15 kilometers to the caves, an 8-hour journey culminating in a flight of 272 steps to the top.Devotees carry containers containing milk as offering to Lord Murugan either by hand or in huge decorated carriers on their shoulders called 'kavadi'. The kavadi may be simple wooden arched semi-circular supports holding a carrier foisted with brass or clay pots of milk or huge, heavy ones which may rise up to two metres, built of bowed metal frames which hold long skewers, the sharpened end of which pierce the skin of the bearers torso. The kavadi is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers imported from India. Some kavadi may weigh as much as a hundred kilograms. After bathing in the nearby Sungei Batu (Rocky River), the devotees make their way to the Temple Cave and climb the flights of stairs to the temple in the cave. Devotees use the wider centre staircase while worshippers and onlookers throng up and down those balustrades on either side. When the kavadi bearer arrives at the foot of the 272-step stairway leading up to the Temple Cave, the devotee has to make the arduous climb. Priests attend to the kavadi bearers. Consecrated ash is sprinkled over the hooks and skewers piercing the devotees' flesh before they are removed. No blood is shed during the piercing and removal.
Thaipusam is also celebrated at Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple (Hilltop) along Jalan Waterfall in George Town, Penang.Its is one of the main event in Penang. On the eve of Thaipusam , a silver chariot with the statue of Lord Muruga is led on a procession, accompanied by Chettiar kavadis or devotees carrying peacock feathers. The procession usually starts at 6.00am departing from Kovil Veedu (House Temple) on Penang Street and travel through Chulia Street, Victoria Street, Prangin Road Ghaut, C.Y. Choy Road, Magazine Road(KOMTAR), Datuk Keramat Road, Irving Road, Jalan Utama and Waterfall Road on its route, reaches the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple on Waterfall Road at about midnight,an 15 hours journey culminating . On eve day, coconuts are also smashed on the roads before the chariot to symbolise the shattering of one’s ego and to achieve self-realization. Aside from that, devotees also make offerings of fruits, flowers and incense to the Lord Muruga in the Silver Chariot.
On Thaipusam day, devotees will undertake a pilgrimage from the Lorong Kulit temple to the new Waterfall temple, Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil located up on a hill while carrying kavadis as an act of penance and fulfilment of a vow or to develop spirituality. Carrying kavadis can be in the form of carrying Paal Kudam (milk pots) as offerings to god or in the form of physical endurance by piercing the cheeks, tongue, or skin on the body with hooks and Vel skewers. The new Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani temple can accommodate up to 800,000 devotees, every year on Thaipusam Festival. Devotees need to climb over 500 steps to reach hilltop temple, which is more than the 272 steps at Batu Caves (Kuala Lumpur).
On next day, the silver chariot with Lord Muruga makes a return trip to Kovil Veedu on Penang Street. The return trip from the Waterfall temple will start from 6.00pm till dawn the next day at 7.30am and will take a different route back, passing through Waterfall Road, Gottlieb Road, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Cantonment Road, Macalister Road, Anson Road, Burmah Road, Transfer Road, Sri Bahari Road, Penang Road, Campbell Street, Buckingham Street, Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, Chulia Street, Queen Street, Market Street, China Street, Beach Street and Penang Street. On this day, the same activities that were carried out on the eve of Thaipusam are carried out again along the route of the procession.
During these three-day celebration, one can find beautifully decorated of more than 100 refreshment stalls erected along Western Road and Gottlieb Road, selling traditional Indian goods, souvenirs, decorative items and snacks. Thunderous loud music, singing, dancing and the beating of drums can be seen and heard from afar throughout the festival.Upon reaching the temple, devotees will fulfill their vows, offer thanksgiving prayers and penance to Lord Muruga.This festival of rich culture and deep tradition in Penang. They also celebrate at the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh, Ipoh.Sungai Petani, Kedah.
ThaiPusam in Singapore
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.11 The procession travels for 4 kilometres before finishing at Tank Road, Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.12
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.13
- Hinduism in Southeast Asia
- Hinduism in Malaysia and Singapore
- Indians in Malaysia and Singapore
- Thai Poosam Kavady in South Africa
- (1996) Pancorbo, Luis: "Los picados de Thaipusam" en "Fiestas del Mundo. Las máscaras de la Luna". pp. 85–93. Ediciones del Serbal. Barcelona. ISBN 84-7628-168-4
- "Malaysia : AllMalaysia.info has all you want to know about Malaysia". Allmalaysia.info. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- "Festivals, Cultural Events and Public Holidays in Mauritius". Mauritius Tourism Authority. Retrieved 2012-01-28.
- Thaipusam in Singapore.
- "Vaikasi Visakam and Lord Murukan". Murugan.org. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Significance of Thaipusam, OmTamil published Oct 15, 2012
- Kent, Alexandra. Divinity and Diversity: A Hindu Revitalization Movement in Malaysia. University of Hawaii Press, 2005. (ISBN 8791114896)
- Hume, Lynne. Portals.
- Palani Thai Pusam, accessed Dec 05, 2006
- Thaipusam celebrations in South East Asia.
- 1.3 million mark Thaipusam - Star newspaper.
- Loh, Larry (2010-02-02). "Thaipusam 2010: Faith, ritual and body piercings". CNNGo.com. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- "Thaipusam | Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Singapore, Singapore". Whatsonwhen. 2010-11-24. Retrieved 2011-01-06.
- Cheney S (8 Feb 2009). "8,000 Hindu devotees take part in Thaipusam festival". Channel News Asia.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Thaipusam.|
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