The Spectacular Thaipusam Celebration 2020

Thaipusam is an Indian festival which is celebrated in any country where you can find a sizeable Tamil community.



Thaipusam is an Indian festival which is celebrated in any country where you can find a sizeable Tamil community. To put it simply, the Thaipusam festival can be summed up in one word: Interesting. Thaipusam is celebrated on the full moon of the month of Thai (absolutely unrelated to Thailand) which also coincides with the Pusam star.

Thaipusam is in commemoration of the time when Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility, wife of Lord Shiva and mother of Lord Murugan, gifted him a vel (spear) which he then used to defeat the demon Soorapadman. Thus Thaipusam is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.

The favourite colours of Lord Murugan are yellow and orange, and thus, devotees adorn themselves in clothing of those colours and offer fruits and flowers of the same colours. The Kavadi Attam, (burden dance) is a major part of the festival where devotees pierce their faces and bodies with swords, skewers, and hooks. Walking on burning coals is sometimes a part of the festival.

A kavadi is a structure which is made of two semi-circular pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure that will then be balanced on the shoulders of the devotee. Sometimes, the kavadi may be heavy, intricate shrines attached to volunteers with sharp skewers. The kavadis symbolize the burdens carried. The largest of the burdens, known as the vel kavadi, requires the person carrying it to be pierced by 108 small spears (vels)! Kavadis are significant because they are a means of paying penance to the god Murugan.

Devotees of Lord Murugan, especially those who would bear kavadis, cleanse themselves for 48 days through celibacy, a special diet (usually vegetarian), and continuous prayer. During this time, they wash with only with cold water and may even choose to sleep on the floor. At least 24 hours before the festival, devotees fast without any food. Some tie clothes around their mouth to impede speech and ensure that their entire focus is on the Lord. On the morning of the festival, they then undertake a pilgrimage along a set route, while engaging in various acts of devotion, and/or carrying the kavadi. Other worshippers who are not carrying kavadis carry offerings of  milk, fruit, or grains for Lord Murugan.

Thaipusam is a public festival. The public is allowed to participate in the festival, either actively, by joining in the dances and worshipping, or passively as onlookers. In Malaysia, the biggest celebrations for Thaipusam are held at Batu caves, just on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the whole world can be found. Batu Caves also has 272 steps which devotees climb as part of their pilgrimage.

References

Das, Subhamoy. “What Is the Thaipusam Festival?” Learn Religions, 4 Feb. 2019,
www.learnreligions.com/the-thaipusam-basics-1770537.

Rodgers, Greg. “These Devotees Pierce Their Faces and Bodies During Thaipusam.” TripSavvy, 6 Jan. 2020,
www.tripsavvy.com/what-is-thaipusam-1458358.

Tamboo, T.K. Letchumy. “'I Feel No Pain': The Significance Of Bearing The Kavadi During Thaipusam.” Lifestyle | Rojak Daily, www.rojakdaily.com/lifestyle/article/6286/i-feel-no-pain-the-significance-of-bearing-the-kavadi-during-thaipusam.

“Thaipusam Festival in Malaysia.” Wonderful Malaysia, www.wonderfulmalaysia.com/malaysia-thaipusam-hindu-festival.htm.

“Types Of Kavadi.” Astro Ulagam, www.astroulagam.com.my/lifestyle/article/51781/types-of-kavadi.

DID YOU KNOW?

Thaipusam is celebrated where there are significant populations of Tamil Hindus, such as India, Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, as well as parts of the Caribbean including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Mauritius.

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