A silent Thaipusam this year


KUALA LUMPUR – It is going to be a silent Thaipusam this year, on Jan 28. COVID-19 has made sure of that.

This annual Hindu religious event will be observed mainly in homes, without the rhythmic sounds of the traditional urumee melam drums, without the kavadis and the accompanying shouts of Vel! Vel! and the huge throng of devotees and onlookers at the Lord Murugan temples throughout the country.

The Movement Control Order (MCO) in force to stem the spread of COVID-19 and flatten the pandemic curve disallows gatherings.

The three major Lord Murugan temples, namely Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves,  Selangor, Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple in Penang and Arul Subramaniar Temple Gunung Cheruh in Ipoh, Perak, will miss the thousands of kavadi bearers, pal kudam (milk pot) bearers, devotees and tourists.

After much persuasion and appeal, the authorities have allowed the silver chariot bearing the idol of Lord Murugan to be taken on the annual ritual from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Tun H S Lee in the heart of Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves and back, but with several restrictions.

Only 10 people will accompany the 7.3-metre-high chariot. They include a priest and five temple committee members. There will be no music accompaniment and the chariot will not stop anywhere along the route. The chariot will leave for Batu Caves tomorrow and return on Friday.

This year, Thaipusam falls on Jan 28. The festival is observed by Hindus worldwide on the full moon day in the 10th month of Thai in the Tamil calendar. It is a day when Lord Murugan received the divine Vel (spear) from his mother, Goddess Parvati, to eradicate the evil force, Soorapadman, and restore peace and prosperity to humankind.

Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk R.S. Mohan Shan said Hindus must accept the current situation and observe Thaipusam prayers on a moderate scale in their respective homes so as to help the government check the spread of COVID-19.

Batu Caves Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple chairman Tan Sri R. Nadarajah advised Hindus to pray at home and fulfil their vows at next year’s Thaipusam, after the battle against COVID-19 has been won.

The Batu Caves temple, renowned for the biggest Lord Murugan statue in the world standing at a height of 42.7 metres, will observe the raising of the Seval Kodi (a flag bearing the picture of a rooster) tomorrow to mark the start of the Thaipusam celebration at the temple. The special six aaru kalam pooja prayers will be held on Jan 28.

Hindu devotees can watch these ceremonies live over Facebook and YouTube on the We Love Batu Caves web page.

The National Security Council had allowed the chariot procession as a mark of respect for Hindus celebrating Thaipusam.

All events in Penang in conjunction with Thaipusam have been cancelled, including the processions of the 100-year-old silver chariot and the golden chariot.

Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) chairman Prof Dr P. Ramasamy said the two main temples, namely Nattukottai Chettiar Temple and Hilltop Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple, have also called off all celebrations at the temples.

However, the prayers on Thaipusam Day will be performed by the committee members at both the temples, with strict adherence to the stipulated MCO standard operating procedures (SOP).

K. Arujunan, a committee member of the Sri Visvanathar Sri Visalatchi Temple in Bayan Baru, also urged Hindus to perform prayers in their homes and observe a vegetarian diet on that day.

“We consider the temple and home as the same. This is because at home also we have a prayer room. So, we can worship (Lord Murugan) at home this year,” he said.