Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thaipusam Vanthachu....Vetrivel Muruganneke...Arrogera..

It is that time of the year again, Thai maasam starts with ponggal celebration and is followed by Thaipusam. The Tamil word "Pusam" refers to a star that is at its highest position during the festival. Because it is celebrated in the month of Thai, the festival is called Thaipusam. The Thaipusam festival is celebrated every year on the full moon day in the month of Thai. Although there are many myths and reasons as to why Thaipusam is celebrated. Thaipusam is mainly celebrated by the Tamil Community but of course being in Malaysia, it becomes a 1Malaysia celebration.

It is not only the Tamils but the Chinese and also the Sikhs joins in paying penance. In Penang, Thaipusam is a state holiday and the celebration will last for three days. This year Thaipusam falls on 31 January. So on the eve, 29 January, there will be a day long chariot procession from Penang Street to Waterfall Temple. This procession which will begin about 6am will take more than 12 hours to reach its destination. It will passby the major roads in Penang and along these roads Panthals are setup and devotees tend to offer their "theervarthanai thatte". This is also where coconuts are broken. One can never miss the huge piles of coconuts offered at Dato' Keramat Road. On the eve itself, you can also see devotees carry milk pot "Paal Kudam" and "kavadi". These are penances paid to Lord Murugan.

Then, on the actual day of Thaipusam devotees go through a physical endurance of being skewered and pierced on the back and front of their bodies by hooks with miniature urns as an act of penance. Many would give out bottled water, fruits, sweet, buns and prepared sweetened and sour rice to devotees. Thunderous loud music, singing, dancing and the beating of drums of devotional songs by their supporters can be seen and heard far and wide throughout the entire vicinity of the festival.Free breakfast, lunch and dinner are served at almost every thaneer panthal. Penang is well known for its thaneer panthals!! I would say, we setup the best and the most number of thaneer panthals in the whole of Malaysia!!

Upon reaching the temple on Thaipusam day, devotees will fulfill their vows, offer thanksgiving prayers and penance to Lord Muruga.

Finally on 31 January the silver chariot is then scheduled for a return trip from the Waterfall Temple at about 6pm and reach Kovil Veedu before dawn the following day. This will be an interesting journey as you get to see lots of devotees following the silver chariot all night long chanting "thevaram" and "bhajanai".

Blogging about Thaipusam now has driven me into the Thaipusam mood. Well, probably I will take a drive along Waterfall Road on Thursday and check out the thaneer panthals.

Remember, Thaipusam is not a street-party, it is a religious festival. Thus, treat it like one and with due respect. Pay your penance in a proper way. Do not deviate from our cultural teachings. If we don't respect our culture and religion, none other would!! It is our responsibility to show good example on this holy day. Vetri-vel Muruganneke.....Arrogera...

Oh yeah, before I end, why do we take paal kudam and kavadi??

Lord Murugan, as the universal granter of wishes, is often approached by students hoping for good exam results or someone wishing for the good health of a sick friend or family member.There is a catch, however. Every devotee wishing for something takes a vow to participate in the Thaipusam if his or her wish has been granted. Not honoring this vow is considered bad luck. Many devotees also participate because they want to repent for past sins or generally reaffirm the strength of their faith.

Participation can be in the form of:
giving out water to devotees or providing first aid and other services,
preparing special food (annadanam), usually daal (lentils) and rice or a vegetarian curry,
carrying a “burden” called kavadi.

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