Hello fellow Malaysians! This week one of the most important public rites observed by the Tamil Hindu community happens every year between January and February.
It is celebrated to commemorate the event where Lord Murugan received the sacred spear from his mother Goddess Parvati, to eliminate the evil demon, Soorapadman, and restore prosperity and human well-being.
Thaipusam is actually derived from the word ‘Thai’ which means 10th, for the 10th month of the Tamil Month and ‘Pusam’ means “when the moon is at its brightest”.
This year it is happening on 18 January 2022.
Preparations Months Ahead
This temple festival is a day for repentance and prayers for devotees with rituals mainly carried out at the temple.
Devotees prepare themselves spiritually with extensive prayers and fasting several months before performing acts of penance like carrying a kavadi on Thaipusam day.
A kavadi consists of a short wooden pole held up by a wooden arch, decorated with peacock feathers, symbolic of Lord Murugan, as the peacock is his mascot, margosa leaves and other symbolic materials.
Some male devotees will pierce sharp skewers through their tongues, cheeks and bodies as part of their self-sacrifice practice. Women usually carry vessels with offerings of fruits, flowers and milk.
This year, the Ponggal harvest festival and Thaipusam fall on the same month of January.
Because of this, reparations are hectic and in full swing for both celebrations happening back-to-back.
A survey of Little India in Brickfields recently found that essential items for Ponggal celebrations, such as clay pots, sugarcane, milk and turmeric were top selling items, while yellow clothes for Thaipusam which will be celebrated on January 18 were also high in demand.
Strict SOPs for the 2nd Year
It is the kavadi that identifies the festival of Thaipusam. Kavadi means “sacrifice at every step”.
However, this year, according to the new SOPs recently announced by the National Security Council (MKN), Thaipusam preparations all over Malaysia have become chaotic with a change of standard operating procedures (SOP).
Kavadis are prohibited with a limited number of people allowed to follow processions. Other ceremonies not allowed during Thaipusam this year include the shaving of heads in temple compounds, coconut-breaking, setting up of stalls and free food distribution (thaneer panthal).
Only the ritual of carrying milk pots (‘paal kudam’ ) are permitted.
Temple organisers have now been forced to scramble to make changes to conform to the rules which state that only 100 people can follow the chariot, and that only 3,000 people can enter the temple between 5am and 5pm.
Temples also have to be closed by 5pm. Before Covid-19, temples closed at midnight.
Several appeals and pleas have been made to apply for SOPs leniency currently awaiting approval.
With Thaipusam coming soon next week on January 18 2022, Gogopasar sincerely hopes that all celebrating this holy day will be able to observe it safely and adequately despite the tight restrictions as health and public safety are important.
Gogopasar is with you during these trying times and hope that by next year celebrations can go on as usual.
Protect yourself from COVID-19 by staying safe.
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