About Thaipusam Festival
The word ‘Thaipusam’ is broken into Thai, which means “10th” and pusam meaning “when the moon is the brightest”. Therefore, celebrated during the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai, between January and February.Thaipusam is an important festival observed by the Hindus of southern India during the Tamil month of Thai (January – February). Outside of India, it is celebrated mainly by the Tamil speaking community settled in Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and elsewhere around the world. Thaipusam is a celebration dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan (youngest son of Shiva and his wife Parvati).
Thaipusam is a dramatic Hindu festival celebrated not only in in India,but also in countries where the tamilians are more in residents like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, SouthAfrica, Mauritius, and elsewhere. The day marks the birthday and victory of the Hindu godSubramaniam, also known as Lord Murugar, over the demons, and is a time of penance andconsecration to the god, usually involving self-mortification in a test of mind over pain.
In Malaysia, the festival is a public holiday in the states of Perak, Penang, and Selangor. InGeorgetown, Penang, a statue of Subramaniam—covered with gold, silver, diamonds, andemeralds—is taken from the Sri Mariamman temple along with his consorts, Valli and Theivanai,and placed in a silver chariot.
There are several legends about the festival Thaipusam. One of them is that there is an Asura/Demon named Tharakasuran who is troubling the rishis and saints. Lord Muruga was called by his parents Lord Shiva and Parvati and given the job of destroying the Asuran. Lord Muruga set off with the blessings of his parents to destroy the demon. He took with him twelve weapons, eleven of which were given by his father Lord Shiva and the ‘Vel’ given by his mother Parvati. Lord Muruga destroyed Tharakasuran on the Poosam Nakshatra day in the Tamil month of Thai and hence Thai Poosam is celebrated in all Murugan temples.
According to another legend, as Shiva was imparting a mantra to Parvati, Lord Muruga eavesdropped on them. For that error, Parvati laid a curse on him, in line with the rule that even a son, if erring, must be punished. To be redeemed from her curse, Lord Muruga offered hard penance at Thiruparankundram. Pleased with his penance, Shiva and Parvati appeared before him and lifted the curse. The day on which the curse was removed is Thai Poosam.
All the temples world wide of Lord Murugan celebreates this festival in a very grand manner. Especially in the Six Battle Camps or ‘Arupadai Veedu’ of Murugan.
Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleaning themselves through prayer and fasting approximately 48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.
On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks withvel skewers is also common.
The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance.
On the Thaipusam day, most devotees of Lord Murugan offer him fruits and flowers of yellow or orange color – his favorite colors and also adorn dresses of the same color. Many devotees bear milk, water, fruits and floral tributes on pails hung from a yoke and carry them on their shoulders to various Murugan temples, far and near. This wooden or bamboo structure called ‘Kavadi’ is covered with cloth and decorated with feathers of peacock – the vehicle of Lord Murugan.
Kavadi Attam (Dance)
The Kavadi Attam ( cavadee )is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Hindu God of War. It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasises debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.
Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee’s son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him.
Body Piercing on Thaipusam
Many fanatical devotees go to such extent as to torture their bodies to appease the Lord. So, a major feature of Thaipusam celebrations is body piercing with hooks, skewers and small lances called ‘vel’. Many of these devotees even pull chariots and heavy objects with hooks attached to their bodies. Many others pierce their tongue and cheek to impede speech and thereby attain full concentration on the Lord. Most devotees enter into a trance during such piercing due to the incessant drumming and chanting of “vel vel shakti vel.”
Variations in Different Temples
In Haripad Subramayawsami Temple, Alapuzha, Kerala is famous for Kavadiyattom.Almost 5000 kavadis coming to the temple from many temples in the locality. garga
In Keezhattingal Subrahmanya swamy Temple, Attingal, Thiruvananthapuram, 10000 kavadis coming to the temple from many various temples in the localitty.
In Vaikom, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted with Kaavadis at Udayanapuram Subramanya temple. Devotees take panchamritha kaavadi, paal kaavadi, bhasma kaavadi, etc.
In Karamana, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Satyavageeswara temple. The utsava moorthy is taken in procession on a vahanam (mount). There is nel(Paddy)parai alappu or Nel alavu, as a ritual performed for good luck and prosperity.
In Cheriyanad Subrahmanya Swami Temple, Chengannur, Alappuzha District, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam is celebrated with more than 500 Kavadis. The rituals are followed in strict manner.
In Nallur, Jaffna, Sri Lanka, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Nallur Kandhasamy Temple. Many Tamil devotees irrespective of religion take part in celebrations. Even Tamils from Roman Catholic faith and Muslims take part in Thai Pusam celebrations and take Kavadis.
Outside Tamil Nadu
The largest Thaipusam celebrations take place in Mauritius, Malaysia and Singapore. It is a public holiday in several states in Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Selangor, Penang, Perak, Kedah, Johor, Negeri Sembilan. Mauritius,Singapore and Reunion.
Thaipusam is a public holiday in Malaysia
Thaipusam is the biggest festival for Hindus after Deepavali and usually falls in January or February. It is observed as a day of thanksgiving and paying penance for Lord Murugan. In many states in MalaysiaThaipusam is a public holiday. Devotees prepare themselves for the occasion by cleansing their bodies through fasting and abstinence, and usually observe a vegetarian diet for a certain period of time. Many devotees began paying penance a few days before the actual festival, with the carrying of the kavadi (a decorated structure bearing the image of several deities including Lord Murugan) on their shoulders and pal kodum (milk pots) carried above their heads.
Thaipusam is a key Hindu ceremony that is held each year during the full moon in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar – Thai – falling from mid-January to mid-February in the Gregorian calendar. It is marked in Malaysia by a public holiday.
Thaipusam is celebrated by the Hindu people of South India and the mainly Tamil-speaking Hindu communities throughout Malaysia. Thaipusam is dedicated as a thanksgiving to Lord Subramaniam (also known as Murugan) for answered prayers, and is also a day of penance. Thaipusam is usually celebrated with a public holiday in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Penang and Selangor only. Devotees offer Lord Subramaniam orange and yellow flowers and fruit, and dress in orange and yellow clothing as part of the ceremony. Offerings are made to many different shrines, however the most famous is at the Batu Caves where a massive 42.7-metre statue of Lord Subramaniam was unveiled in 2006.
Devotees climb a staircase of 272 stone stairs into the limestone of Batu Caves, where a number of caverns exist and house the shrines.
Thaipusam in Singapore
A Holy Hindu Festival Celebrated by Indians in Singapore. The ceremony starts at 5am before sunrise and goes on till night.
Thaipusam festival is an important Indian festival in Singapore. Falling during the month of January, this festival is perhaps the most spectacular Hindu festival in Singapore, celebrated with much gusto and enthusiasm.
Among cities, Singapore has one of the largest Indian populations outside of India. The Indians form the third largest ethnic group in Singapore, and within this group are two very diversified sets of beliefs, cultures and religions. While a small percentage of Indians have adopted modern lifestyles, majority remains faithful to their tradition and culture. In Singapore, more than half of the ethnic Indians practice Hinduism, celebrating traditional festivals like Deepavali and Thaipusam.
In Singapore, the Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning where devotees fulfill their vows with a 4.5 km walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road. The first batches of devotees usually carry milk pots and wooden Kavadis. A Kavadi consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders of a devotee. It is usually decorated with flowers, palm leaves and peacock feathers. The milk they have been carrying is then offered to Lord Subrahmanya at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. Devotees carrying spiked Kavadis, which require elaborate preparations, leave the temple in the later part of the morning and continue till night. The festival is not just an exclusively Indian affair; several Chinese devotees and people of other races also come to fulfill their vows on this day.
In preparation for carrying a Kavadi, a devotee has to prepare himself spiritually. For a period of about a month, the devotee must live a life of abstinence whilst maintaining a strict vegetarian diet. The devotees are usually accompanied by family members and friends supporting in the form of prayers and chants. Witness the sacred ritual of Thaipusam when in Singapore, a true act of faith.
The festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan), who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil. The festival generally lasts for 2 days. Indeed, for devotees.
Thaipusam is often the climax of an entire month spent in spiritual preparation with a strict vegetarian diet.
It is believed that only when the mind is free of material worth and the body free from physical pleasures can a devotee undertake the sacred task without feeling any pain. And whomever worships Lord Subrahmanya in this Thaipusam Festival, will be showered with Lords blessings and can achieve all their wishes.