Thaipusam – a Hindu festival mostly celebrated by the Tamil community on the full moon, in the Tamil month of Thai, is usually in January or February. It’s an annual thanks-giving procession by Hindu devotees seeking blessings and the fulfillment of vows. Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Subrahmanya, also known as Lord Murugan – the Hindu god of war and victory. The festival is generally celebrated over two days. On the first day before Thaipusam, a statue of Lord Subrahmanya decked with jewels and finery and together with his two consorts, Valli and Devayani, are placed on a chariot and brought in procession. Here in Singapore, the chariot procession begins from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road to the Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Siak Road.
During the Hindu festival Thaipusam, the ceremony begins in the wee hours of the morning with the first batch of devotees of Lord Subrahmanya leaving the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road for the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road. The procession travels for four kilometres. Many devotees carry milk pots while others carry a kavadi – a semi circular metal or wooden structure decorated with peacock feathers and flowers. Some devotees even pierce their tongues with skewers. The spiked kavadis which can weigh up to 30 kilos require elaborate preparations. So they only leave the temple in the later part of the morning and continue till night.
During Thaipusam, carrying a kavadi is a popular form of devotion for Hindus. It’s usually carried in fulfillment of a vow that a devotee would have taken. Placing a kavadi at the end of the foot procession at the altar of Lord Subrahmanya and making an offering of milk symbolizes the cleansing of the mind and soul and seeking of blessings. A month before the actual day, a devotee carrying a kavadi has to prepare himself spiritually. He must live a life of abstinence whilst maintaining a strict vegetarian diet. It’s believed that only when the mind is free of material wants and the body free from physical pleasures that a devotee can undertake the sacred task without feeling any pain.