Thaipusam is a Hindu celebration of devotion, occurring on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). It is a time to give thanks to Muruga, the son of Shiva. Thaipusam is celebrated in many places around the world, with the largest observances in India, Singapore, and Malaysia. Aren't we lucky it is celebrated here in Singapore!
My friend H and I went last year (click here to see the photos) and were mesmerized by the event. At the end of my post I wrote... “next year, I hope to get to see the actual piercing take place”…. well guess what? We went to the temple and saw the actual piercings! Oh my. If you are bothered by needles or piercings, you probably should not read any further!
And not only did we watch the piercings, we were invited to walk with a family - read all about this further down! It truly is one of the most bazaar religious festivals in the world. This year it fell January 27th, a Sunday, so D was able to join us. Last year’s post has many facts, so please visit here if you want to learn more about this celebration
Thaipusam in Singapore
Thaipusam this year was on 27 January. I spent the day at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and followed the kavadi-bearers on their procession along Serangoon Road.
One of the most physically agonising of religious festivals, Thaipusam is a test of faith for believers and a stunning visual spectacle to outsiders. From the main thoroughfare of Serangoon Road, kavadi-bearers carry three to seven-foot-high structures of wood or steel and brace themselves for a 4.5km walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thandayuthapani Temple at Tank Road. And if that isn’t physically strenuous enough, some devotees also pierce their tongues, torsos, and lips, with hooks and skewers attached to the kavadi.
Along the way to Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, also known as Murugan Temple or Chettiar’s Temple, devotees chant hymns in praise of their god. Many locals and tourists stand ready with camera gear alongside the special lanes for the kavadi-bearers and supporters, cheering them on.
Thaipusam 2013 in Singapore
This Hindu festival is held during the full moon of the 10th Tamil month, called Thai. It usually falls in mid January and is celebrated each year within the Tamil community in Singapore. The highly symbolic celebration honors Lord Muruga, the god for youth, power and destroyer of all evil. In 2013, Thaipusam falls on the 27th of January. On this day, devotees seek blessings and offer their thanks by carrying milk pots and wooden Kavadis along a 5 km procession course
After several hours of preparation in the temple, devotees, accompanied by a large group of family and friends, leave one after the other the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to go on the 5km walk to join Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road. The festival is known mainly to insiders and locals but still attracting quite a crowd, so expect traffic to come to stand still in some parts along their way through Little India.
The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel, so that he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman
Thaipusam (Tamil: தைப்பூசம், Taippūcam) Thai Poosam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). It is not only observed in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where Tamil communities are smaller, such as Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.
The word Thaipusam is a combination of the name of the month, Thai, and the name of a star, Pusam. This particular star is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.
There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month (May/June), is Murugan's birthday
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.
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.