The Hindu religion is vast and devout and has been a big part of the Malaysian culture for a long time. That being said what is Thaipusam or Thaipoosam?
Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai, usually coinciding with Pushya star, known as Poosam in Tamil. In many countries it is marked by a national holiday and much celebration on the day in the Hindu community.
The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. It is also commonly marked as the day of Murugan’s birthday. As you travel around the country many Hindu businesses and Hindu places of worship will be decorated in elaborate designs and flowers streaming from every corner to celebrate as garlands adorn the statues.
Every year the impressive Thaipusam Festival celebrations take place inside the Batu caves near Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur. Thousands gather for the festivities as the parade as they enter the caves behind the 43 meter tall statue of Lord Murugan.
In Malaysia there are 2 main places Thaipusam is celebrated namely the Batu Caves and also George Town on the island of Penang. The 3 day long festival begins inside the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Chinatown and from there the procession winds through the streets for 11 kilometers to the Batu Caves with some 50,000 devotees joining the way.
Now if you are seeing the festivities for the first time you may be a bit taken a-back. However, don’t be alarmed, many of the things you see are done by strong devotees and are willfully carrying out these acts of worship for the festival. Devotees pierce various body parts with needles and spears, especially through the cheeks and tongue. The skin on the back is pierced with hooks to which limes are attached that pull on the hooks when the devotee whirls around in a trance as they are wheeled along the procession on a carriage. Women carry a silver jug of milk on their head while some of them also have their cheeks and tongue pierced. Devotees will pray and fast for weeks before the event. They follow a strict vegetarian diet while some of them sleep for months on the hard floor of their home to prepare for the festival.
In a way it is amazing to see the faith that the Hindu people have to perform some of these acts and the pageantry of the celebration speaks volumes of how much this festival means to the community.
Well there you go, hopefully you know more about the upcoming holiday this February and perhaps you too can go out and witness the procession as it makes it way to the caves.