Thaipusam is an annual procession, observed by the Hindu devotees in Singapore to honor Lord Subramaniam, (also known as Lord Murugan).
The name, Thaipusam, is a conjoined commemoration of Thai, the month, and Pusam, the star–which reaches its highest point during the festival. The festival’s observance dates back to a thousand-year-old tradition when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel “spear” to vanquish the demon Soorapadman. It is believed that Thaipusam marks the birthday of Murugan.
Lord Subramaniam is believed to be the destroyer of evil. He represents youth, virtue and power. Hindu seek blessings from their lord for fulfilling vows and offer thanks to their lord and community.
The festival lasts for 2 days, and it begins from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Road. The Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning when the first batch of devotees carry wooden kavadis and milk pots to the temple.
Some of the devotees pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a wooden kabaddi decorated with peacock feather and flowers balanced on their shoulders. The spiked kavadis requires elaborate preparation and thus, the task is only undertaken by learned disciples who have had prior training.
Thaipusam is the climax of an entire month of holy observances. Devotees in this period indulge in spiritual preparation with a strict vegetarian diet and meditation. Through the practice, they prepare their mind to be free from all material worth and physical pleasures, so they can undertake the sacred task without any mental guilt or physical pain.The devotees who commit to Kavadi Yatra commit to extremes in the virtue of their religion. Others carry a simple pot of milk, which is a symbol of fertility and abundance among Hindus.
People can observe the spectacle anywhere between Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road. It must be noted that many lanes close down due to traffic, and thus caution must be practiced before lodging your vehicles in an unknown lane.
The Yatra is four kilometers long, and devotees along the way chant hymn and prayers to encourage and support each other.
The Prickly Kavadis, which can weigh up to 80kgs, are decoded with peacock feathers and flowers. They are adorned with life-giving milk to honor Murugan. Kavadis symbolizes ‘sacrifices at every step’, which is added to their month-long vegetarian trial. The devotees follow the religious teachings of freeing their mind from extra pleasures and worldly belongings, but rather bear sufferings to get rid of evil and a rebirth into the good.
The progression begins from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and finishes at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, where the milk is finally poured over the pots of Lord Murugan. The entire ceremony is arranged to worship the deities. The feast is done to observe and undertake Murugan’s virtues while getting rid of our own wickedness. The date of the celebration varies from year to year, depending upon the Tamil calendar.
On the second day of the festival, devotees carry milk pots and walk barefoot while chanting glorifying songs of Lord Murugan.
Thaipusam is held on the full moon of the Thai month, and so, the date varies and usually falls mid-January or early February. It is believed that the legend of Murugan is the embodiment of Shiva’s light and wisdom, and devotees worship him to overcome the obstacles they face. He is believed to be the divine vanquisher of evil.
The motive behind the festival is to pray to God to receive his grace so that the bad traits are destroyed and peace is achieved.