Comments on article: InfopediaTalk
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated in January or February annually. Thaipusam is actually derived from thai which means "10th", and pusam meaning "when the moon is at its brightest". It is thus celebrated when the moon is full in the Tamil month of Thai (between January and February). Dedicated to Lord Subramaniam, also known as Lord Murugan, the deity of youth, power and virtue, this festival is a time for repentance for devotees with celebrations carried out mainly at the temple. Devotees prepare themselves spiritually with extensive prayer and fasting before performing acts of penance or thanksgiving like carrying a kavadi from one temple to another. Often, sharp skewers are pierced through their tongues, cheeks and bodies as a practice of self-mortification. Offerings include fruits, flowers and pots of milk
This Hindu festival commemorates the feats of the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam son of Lord Siva. It also acknowledges Subramaniam's triumph over the evil forces. According to the legend, devas or celestial beings at one time were so plagued by the asuras, or demons, that they pleaded with Lord Siva, to help them. Touched by their pleas, Lord Siva sent his son Subramaniam to conquer the asuras. After accomplishing this task, the victorious Subramaniam was believed to have appeared before his devotees. In the vision, he was bedecked with brilliant jewels, armed with a golden spear and seated on a chariot. Thus, on Thaipusam day, Lord Subramaniam's image, adorned and decorated, is placed on a silver chariot before his devotees. This is then taken in a procession the day before. Besides being acknowledged as a symbol of virtue, bravery, youth and beauty, the Hindus believe that Lord Subramaniam is also the universal dispenser of favours. Hence, some who have made vows and pledges to Lord Subramaniam prove their gratitude to him by undergoing self-mortification on Thaipusam day.
Rites and rituals
The most popular form of sacrifice is the carrying of the kavadi which means "sacrifice at every step". The symbolism of carrying the kavadi originates from a myth where the kavadi represents a mountain with Lord Subramaniam at its apex. The smaller, semi-circular kavadi is a steel or wooden frame with bars for support on the shoulders, normally decorated with flowers and peacock feathers. The larger ones with spikes can weigh as much as 40 kg and reach a height of four metres. Other forms of sacrifice include piercing silver pins through the cheek and tongue and pricking the body with hooks and spear-like needles. The devotees who intend to perform the sacrifice are customarily required to observe strict physical and mental discipline. Throughout the tenth month of Thai, purification of the body is a necessity. This includes taking just one vegetarian meal a day, and sexual abstinence. In addition, a 24-hour fast is observed on the eve of Thaipusam. Most women devotees carry a pot of milk called a palkuddam. The milk is poured over the statue of Lord Subramaniam after the procession.
In Singapore, this Hindu festival starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road. The kavadi carriers, together with their relatives, friends and well-wishers congregate here in the morning to participate in the procession which will take them through Serangoon Road, Orchard Road and finally to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, commonly known as the Murugan Temple or Chettiar's Temple. All along the way, devotees chant hymns in praise of the deity. The kavadi carriers' arrival at the Murugan Temple at Tank Road marks the accomplishment of their task. A mixture of fruits and honey is prepared and distributed among the devotees.
Donovan, R. (1989). Thaipusam: Festival of faith. Connoisseur's Asia, 26, 31.
(Call no.: RSING 052 CA)
Goodwood Journal, 1st Qtr., 11. (1978).
(Call no.: RCLOS 052 GHCHJ)
Bigger crowd expec. (1999, December 29). The Straits Times, Home, p. 20.
Singhan, E. V. (1976). Thaipusam. Singapore: EVS Enterprises.
(Call no.: RSING 294.536 SIN)
The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.