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Thaipusam: A Walk Among Gods

Selva, a devotee, in a coma as Lord Kali, a extreme Hindu goddess

Indians a universe over have a gesticulate that, as distant as we know, is singular to them. It is a laterally lift of a chin, customarily achieved in unanimity with a play of a eyes – a long, soft blink – and an roughly inaudible lean of a shoulders. Depending on context, it can be a yes, it can be a no, it can vigilance deference, it can vigilance a preference made. But regardless of context, a receiver always understands a message.

It is with this really gesticulate that Selva snapped out of his coma as Lord Kali, a extreme Hindu goddess. We are on a banks of a Batu River, that flows within eyesight of a famous Batu Caves, and it is a day before Thaipusam. During Thaipusam, Hindu devotees will commence a eventuality from a Batu River to Batu Caves, while behaving acts of penance such as carrying a earthy weight (called a “Kavadi”), or trenchant themselves with hooks or skewers. Devotees mostly enter into trances to perform these feats of endurance, job on one of Hinduism’s 33 million deities to possess them by perplexing rituals upheld down by a generations.

Ash is sprinkled over Selva’s head, as he enters into a trance

Initiating a trance

I am examination Selva perform one such ritual. First he cleanses himself. Traditionally, devotees take a drop in a river, yet record has now authorised for a open showering complement to be commissioned on a riverbank. Then, an elaborate ceremony, conducted with a assistance of his entourage, follows, involving incense, fruits, Kumkum powder and holy ash.

Try as we may, we can't keep adult with or know a obstruction of rites. Small braziers are lit, and some of a equipment hold over a smoke. Milk is poured into dual china jars and cumulative to Selva’s Kavadi. Next to me, one of a women breaks into coma with a shriek. Another lady shortly follows suit. Amidst all this, Selva bows and touches a feet of his mother, a ultimate gesticulate of honour in Hinduism.

One of a members of Selva’s environment seems to perform a purpose of a priest, giving directions to a group. It is he who calls a coma on Selva. Selva stands before him, palms pulpy together, as he chants quietly. Ash is sprinkled over Selva’s head, and his physique starts to moving into a bow. we watch his eyes spin wild. With a scream, Selva drops to his knees, tongue out-stuck. He is Kali.

Next, a piercing. Selva’s penance this year involves trenchant his tongue. As Selva – or Lord Kali – stands, arms akimbo, staring during a mob that has shaped around him, an burdensome volume of rites is achieved over a prolonged china skewer that will be used. Meanwhile, he asks for a orange and chews on it. When a skewer is ready, he offers his tongue, that a clergyman dabs with Kumkum powder and ash, before slowly, laboriously, flitting a skewer by it. He doesn’t flinch. With a skewer secured, a clergyman binds Selva’s conduct in his hands, chants some prayers, and suddenly, as if roused from low thought, Selva’s physique relaxes. Without even looking up, he rises his chin sideways, and everybody in a organisation understands that a coma is over.

Now for a tiny matter of carrying a Kavadi all a approach to a church in Batu Caves. Like many other devotees, Selva will perform his eventuality currently – a day progressing – to equivocate a large crowds on a day proper. “It’s OK to do it a eve before,” explains Selva when we spoke to him earlier. “It is still within a portentous generation of time, when a Pusam star is during a tip indicate and it emanates certain energy.”

Selva starts his tour towards a cavern with a weight of his Kavadi on his shoulders

Positive energy

Energy would be a word to report Batu Caves that afternoon. The caves are a informed steer in Kuala Lumpur, a bone-white limestone cliffs surfaced with sprouting immature jungle mostly intruding into a city’s petrify skyline. When it does, it customarily provides visible relief, an oasis of ease amid civic bustle. But today, Batu Caves is buzzing with energy. Inside a park area around a caves, stalls line any walkway, offering eremite trinkets, clothes, cold drinks, vegetarian food, normal Indian candy and even furniture. The atmosphere is thick with a smell of spices and cooking oil, and vibrates with song blared from loudspeakers that have prolonged given detonate their diaphragms. Indians adore their song driving, pulsating, full-blooded. People are everywhere, jostling with you, job out to you, smiling during your camera, and when we appreciate them, lifting their chin laterally in return. Everyone and all is conspiring to kick behind a energy-sapping Malaysian afternoon heat.

As we travel closer to a caves, a tarpaulin tents of stalls partial to exhibit a famous 150 foot-tall golden statue of Lord Murugan. And subsequent to it, a 272 red-and-white stairs that takes visitors from belligerent spin adult to a mouth of a categorical cavern complex, within that resides a many visited Hindu church in a country. Closer to a feet of a caves, several organisations and associations have erected tents to offer giveaway vegetarian food to a expected 1.5 million visitors. At a behind of a tents, outrageous vats are cooking collection after collection of rice, that when piled into mounds on a list lonesome in banana leaves, resembles a tiny of a Swiss Alps.

The stage during Batu Caves during a day

In this gratifying atmosphere, Selva carries his Kavadi towards a cave. Kavadis operation in stretch and form, infrequently reaching adult to 7 feet above a bearer’s shoulders. But Selva has selected a medium chronicle imitative a carrying pole, flashy with Hindu motifs, and temperament a jar of divert during any end. He has walked some dual kilometres to arrive during a feet of a 272-step stairs that leads to a caves. All by a journey, by a song and a smell of food and a feverishness and a crowds, Selva confirmed stoic focus. Many devotees would enter into a coma for a whole generation of a procession, yet Selva is wakeful and clear-minded throughout. “That’s a approach we cite it,” he would explain later. “I wish to feel a weight on my shoulders.”

Joining a mob on their approach to a temple

Resonating with a masses

An hour and a half after a start of his pilgrimage, during a tip of a stairs, inside a temple, Selva completes his penance. His trenchant is removed. He passes a dual jars of divert to a priest, who pours it over a spear, before a tabernacle of Lord Murugan. we try to ask him how he feels. “I feel fine, no tiredness,” he says casually. “Usually if there is lassitude it will set in after a day or two, yet now we feel fine. Energised.”

The perspective from a cave

As we leave a temple, during a mouth of a cave, a perspective opens up. we see that a mob had distended significantly. Suddenly, we am wakeful of a bulk of a event. Below us, over a stairs streaming with people, a shape-shifting mob of devotees gravitates towards us, watched over by a golden Lord Murugan. Behind us, a gaping mouth of Batu Caves soars overhead. Surrounding it all was a eve sky, solemnly branch a colour of saffron.

At night, it’s a sea of of people, as a continue cools and some-more people start their pilgrimage

Thaipusam during night

At night, Thaipusam morphs into a opposite animal. The crowd, holding advantage of cooler weather, simply triples. The song continues unabated, yet a object is transposed by lights of all colours, casting changeable shadows in any direction. It is a busiest time of Thaipusam. we am with K. Anuharan, a advocate who flies behind from Australia any year for a procession. He is scheming to lift a 30 kg Kavadi to Batu Caves, yet we are stuck, literally, in a Kavadi jam.

Anuharan carries his Kavadi, goes into a coma and emerges as a Hindu deity Lord Hanuman

Stuck in Kavadi rush hour

Kavadis building over me from any direction. Large Kavadis, any accompanied by an environment of family and friends, and mostly by a normal drum unit as well. It is a vanquish of tellurian bodies, with not a moment’s silence, as a drum troupes take turns belting out rattling beats and devotees mangle out in chants of “Vel Vel Muruga”. We need to make it to a Batu River, where Anuharan can offer his prayers, lift his Kavadi, and trigger a trance. It is no some-more than a hundred metres away, yet we simply can't get there. Anuharan is already dual hours late. He had designed to kick a night rise period, yet now finds himself pound in a center of it. In a impulse of calm, between organising his entourage, perplexing to navigate his Kavadi by a throng, and placating his immature daughter (who was worried since she was barefoot), he catches my eye. “Tension”, he says with a smile. Why? “Already dual hours late, and we had to make we wait.” we demur, he smiles. we am beholden adequate that he has authorised me to join his entourage.

It is motionless that it would be unfit to strech a riverbank. Anuharan will offer his prayers on a pavement where we stand. Items are brought out and placed on sheets of newspaper, braziers illuminated with camphor tablets. Amidst a noise, a jostling, a semi-darkness, we can hardly follow a protocol that takes place. Ash is dirty on his physique and his forehead. He prostrates himself before his elders. The divert jar is filled with milk, and fixed to a centre of a Kavadi. Somewhere, someone flips a switch, and Anuharan’s Kavadi flashes with multicolored lights. On a centrepiece of a Kavadi, a styrofoam peacock shimmers in a lights. Anuharan finds time to collect adult his daughter, and shows her a centrepiece. “See, all this we did for you.” Anuharan had swayed a Kavadi builder to supplement lights and a peacock to his Kavadi during a really final minute, even going to a border of purchasing a lights on his own, during a ask of his daughter. His daughter is placated.

It is time to lift his Kavadi. Bala, a Kavadi maker, helps mountain a Kavadi on his shoulders, adjusting a steel equipment to make certain that a weight is uniformly distributed opposite a shoulders. With a Kavadi strapped on, there is one final protocol before a approach starts – initiating a trance. The mob around senses something is happening, and spin to watch. Anuharan’s elders step brazen to magnify him. Anuharan asks for a drum unit to play louder. His environment starts chanting. His mom breaks into a coma and starts dancing before him. The chanting turns urgent. Anuharan takes it all in, palms pulpy together. His physique goes taut. He throws his conduct back, and with a good cry, he emerges as a Hindu deity Lord Hanuman, and immediately starts dancing.

Presenting himself before a tabernacle of Lord Murugan

A prolonged journey

Four hours later, Anuharan’s environment is still nonetheless to arrive during a stairs of Batu Caves. A true travel of a approach route would take an hour during most, yet it’s Kavadi rush hour. Moreover, Anuharan, hexed by a witty Lord Hanuman, insists on dancing his approach there. Anuharan would after tell me that he can't dance to save his life.

As we nearby a caves, a vanquish of bodies becomes roughly suffocating. Ahead, a hulk statue of Lord Murugan rises into view. With many of a Kavadis during this hour illuminated adult like Christmas trees, we suppose a perspective from his vantage indicate would be utterly surreal – dancing boats of lights floating on a sea of tellurian bodies.

By a time we finally strech a summit, it is an hour past midnight. Below, a crowd, yet still huge, has begun to thin. Inside a temple, a Kavadi is dismounted, and Anuharan, as Lord Hanuman, presents himself before a tabernacle of Lord Murugan. It seemed like a dual deities common a moment. Then, Anuharan takes a splash of holy ash, presses it to his forehead, and, unexpected usually human, he collapses.

His family helps him to a shrine, where his charity of divert is poured out before a deity. As he lingers for a impulse longer, palms pulpy together opposite his front in prayer, his face contorts with emotion. His tour is over. Even examination him from a distance, we felt a release. This is a perfection not of a five-hour Kavadi pilgrimage, yet of a 48-day tour that started, with a derivation of his vows, in Australia. “Everything I’ve finished is out of friendship to Lord Murugan,” he would explain later. “It’s not only a divert that we offered, we wish to be a best that we can via a past 48 days. Hopefully that becomes a robe for a rest of a year, until a subsequent Thaipusam.”

Anuharan and his daughter, after completing his pilgrimage

All are welcome

As we leave a temple, we notice a organisation of Chinese Buddhists who had also only offering divert during a shrine. One of them even had a skewer by his cheeks and piercings on his back. It led me to remember a review with Selva previously: “Hinduism binds zero opposite other religions,” he said. “We trust God is one, and there are many ways for us to realize God.” Anuharan agrees. “Everyone has their possess tour to walk. we am brought adult a Hindu, so we travel in a Hindu trail to realize God, only as a Christian would travel in a Christian path, and as a Buddhist would travel in a Buddhist path.” In retrospect, this inclusiveness is unexpected clear to me. Both Selva and Anuharan authorised me, a stranger, to share a many dedicated partial of their lives, but meddling into my personal eremite beliefs. And after everything, they thanked me, even before we could appreciate them. Their acquire bordered on veneration: “This chairman contingency be sent to us by Lord Murugan!” exclaimed a member of Selva’s environment after a procession, holding my hand. we appreciate him in return, and he rises his chin sideways, a gesticulate that says it all.

 

Missed a initial partial of this series? We go behind a scenes of Kavadi creation to find out what it means to lift a burden.

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Thaipusam: a jubilee of faith and gratitude

While many of us associate Thaipusam with crowds during temples and a grand steer of kavadi bearers, how many of us indeed know a stress of a occasion?

A advocate temperament a kavadi – a pitch of piety and devotion

Thaipusam comes from an amalgam of a difference “Thai” – referring to a Tamil month of Thai (January – February) – and Pusam – a brightest star during this period. Falling between 15 Jan and 15 Feb each year, Thaipusam is a jubilee of Lord Murugan’s feat over Soorapadman’s tyranny.

Soorapadman believed himself godlike given he can't be killed by anything other than a being that was a phenomenon of Lord Shiva, one of a many critical Hindu deities. Unluckily for him, Lord Murugan was one such being and he used his stalk or vel, that was given to him by Lord Shiva’s consort, Parvati, to better Soorapadman.

So it is that during Thaipusam, a people appreciate Lord Murugan for extenuation their wishes and defeating a “daily demons” that disease their lives, be it illnesses, career blocks or infertility. Believers not entirely appreciate him, they also ask redemption for trangressions made, as good as urge for blessings.

The rituals of Thaipusam entirely start most progressing before a large day itself. Some devotees quick for some-more than a month before a arise while others trim their heads as an act of gratitude, defence or as a touching defence to have prayers answered.

On a eve of Thaipusam, a picture of Lord Murugan is ecstatic from one church to another, accompanied and waited on by devotees temperament offerings to a deity. Milk, a pitch of virginity and virtue, as good as flowers and fruits are common Thaipusam offerings. Kavadis, literally “sacrifice during each step”, can be seen trustworthy to devotees around hooks and skinny spears that pierce their backs, cheeks and mouths.

This can be utterly a steer for onlookers who no doubt consternation how these kavadi bearers withstand a pain, though devotees will tell we that their romantic faith in their Lord Murugan’s insurance spares them from pain and prevents them from shedding blood. Bearing a kavadi is an act of friendship and humility.

Additionally, coconuts are crushed to weigh a violation of a ego and a presentation of a purer self.

In Batu Caves – one of a focal points of Thaipusam jubilee in Malaysia – a approach concomitant a china chariot temperament Lord Murugan’s idol, starts from Sri Mahamariamman, in a centre of Kuala Lumpur, to a temples of Batu Caves. The approach entirely starts before midnight on a eve of Thaipusam and is a 15 kilometre tour that can simply take 8 hours.

Devotees wait for hours usually to locate a glance of Lord Murugan on his chariot and extend their offerings while hundreds of thousands some-more join a approach to a temples. The series of people during Batu Caves during Thaipusam can operation from 700,000 right adult to 1.5 million. At Batu Caves, devotees steadily lift their offerings and kavadi bearers staunchly shoulder their burdens adult 272 stairs to a temple.

Celebrations also take place in other tools of a country. Other principal places of jubilee embody a Waterfall Temple in Penang and Kallumalai Temple in Ipoh, Perak.

A approach concomitant a chariot temperament a Hindu deity as it creates a approach to a church during Thaipusam

Thaipusam, to any who are propitious to declare a festivities, is both a clear jubilee of colours and a fascinating arrangement of faith. Yet, this is not a entirely Hindu festival that is value temperament declare to. Other holy days, critical to Hindu faith and culture, are usually as engaging and engrossing.

Deepavali, literally definition “rows of lamps”, for example, is a jubilee of light triumphing over dark. On this day in a Tamil month of Aippasi (October – November), one fable has it that a Lord Krishna degraded a demon aristocrat Naraka. Hindus applaud a arise by anointing themselves in oil and partaking in a protocol bath early in a morning on Deepavali day. Then new garments are ragged and prayers are performed. Deepavali is utterly presumably a best famous Hindu festival in Malaysia. Other festivals besides Thaipusam and Deepavali are:

Thai-ponggal

Celebrated for 4 days, commencement from a initial day of a Tamil month of Thai, Ponggal means a “boiling over” of rice and is a invocation to a elements that have contributed to a good collect – especially a object and a cattle. On this day, a cattle gets a well-deserved day of rest, a good rinse and their sheds likewise get a consummate cleaning. They are also flashy with garlands and fed with ponggal – sweet rice. The Sun God is thanked as good with both prayers and honeyed rice. But a thankfulness isn’t entirely singular to a Sun God and a cattle; on a third day of celebration, visits are done to family and friends, employers entirely benefaction gifts to their employees and singular women benefaction offerings to their home deities, praying for a estimable husband.

Sivarathiri

Taking place on a 13th night of a Tamil month of Masi (February – March), this is a festival of fasting and prayers. It is also famous as Shiva’s Night.

Panguni Utthiram

This festival falls on a same day as that of Lord Shiva’s kinship with Parvathi and a birth of Lord Murugan from sparks emanating from Lord Shiva’s eyes. Falling on a day of a full moon in a Tamil month of Panguni (March – April), a festival is distinguished most like Thaipusam in Murugan temples.

Tamil New Year

Here new year refers to a initial day of a Tamil month of Chittirai (April – May). It is on this day that a object enters a initial pointer of a Hindu zodiac – Aries. During a Tamil New Year (also famous as a Hindu New Year), a residence is entirely spotless and decorated. This includes a request room that will be ornate with bullion jewellery, rice, silk cloths and other enlightened objects. Those who take partial in a celebrations wear new clothes, eat a vegetarian dish and go to a church to perform prayers.

Navaratthiri

Literally definition “Nine Nights”, this festival is distinguished in a Tamil month of Puraddasi (September – October). The celebrations are in honour of a enchantress Shakti, who is a “Great Divine Mother” in Hindu belief. On this day, a kolu – a dais with 9 stairs – is filled with a images of Hindu deities and saints while a “Great Divine Mother” is invited to take her place on a kumpam – a beautifully decorated, water-filled pot that is lonesome with husked coconut as good as mango leaves and placed on banana root that also has rice on it. Offerings in a form of 9 forms of grains are placed during a kumpan as well.

 


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Oil Lamp or Vilakku

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A church stands proud

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Malaysia Travel Guide

Thaipusam

Thaipusam is distinguished by Hindus on a full moon day in a Thai month of a Tamil calendar, that is in Jan or February.

Also famous as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam in Malayalam, it is a festival to symbol a birth of Lord Murugan, a youngest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

The festival also noted an arise when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (lance) so he could overcome a immorality demon Soorapadman.

Hindu devotees in Malaysia distinguished Thaipusam on 8th Feb 2009 to symbol a birth of Lord Murugan by going to several temples in a country.

The chanting of “vel, vel” rose above Batu Caves as an estimated 1.2 million Hindu devotees and visitors alive a Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple for Thaipusam 2009.

Here are some extraordinary photos of a jubilee of Thaipusam.

Malaysia Thaipusam 2009
Image credit: SJ Photography

Image Malaysia Thaipusam 2009

Photo Malaysia Thaipusam 2009
Image credit: kiki-la-la

Photos Malaysia Thaipusam 2009
Image credit: xiangxi

Images Malaysia Thaipusam 2009
Image credit: xiangxi

Event Malaysia Thaipusam 2009
Image credit: xiangxi

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