23 Feb A Look at Thaipusam in Penang
Thaipusam is a religious festival observed by the Hindu community. It is usually celebrated during the full moon in the 10th month of the Hindu calendar. It is believed that this tradition was brought to the Malay Peninsula through the South Indian Diaspora back in the 19th century.
Thaipusam in Penang is a sight to behold, as devotees begin their journey in the wee hours of the morning and make their way through various temples in George Town. The worship of the Hindu’s celebrated deity, Lord Muruga begins with a silver chariot procession from the Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in Waterfall, led by kavadis adorned beautifully with peacock feathers.
As is a part of the rituals during Thaipusam, the devotees’ bodies are pierced with hooks and spears as a sign of penance, while others fulfil their vows by carrying ‘Paal Kudam’ (milk pots) up to the Waterfall Hilltop Temple. Other common sights during the festivities include coconut smashing.
Preparation for the Thaipusam festivities begins some 40 days before the actual day. During this time, many of these devotees observe a strict vegetarian diet. During this fast, they renounce all activities that give them pleasure and comfort, and instead choose to spend this time in prayer and meditation.
The day’s festivities end in the evening and culminate as devotees bear the silver chariot to its final destination – the Natukottai Chettiar Temple in George Town.