Singapore

Thaipusam: Every step a sacrifice

Finally, after 42 years, live music will be played at various points during Thaipusam, the colourful annual Hindu procession here. We walk you through the festival that promises to ignite vibes, colours and sounds

WHAT IS THAIPUSAM?

The word “Thai” is the name of the month (mid-January to mid- February) and “Pusam” is the name of the star, which is at its highest point during the Hindu festival. It is an annual foot procession by Hindu devotees seeking blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks. Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power and is the destroyer of evil to Hindus. It is mainly observed in countries with large Tamil communities such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka.

VEL — SPEAR OF MURUGAN

The Vel of Murugan is a mystical divine weapon with which Lord Murugan destroyed the asuras. It is an object of worship in some of the shrines of Murugan. The very word Vel has the mystical powers of invoking the grace of Murugan and therefore devotees chant “Vel Vel”, “Veera Vel”, “Vetri Vel”, “Gnana Vel”, Shakthi Vel” in their worship rituals.

RITES AND RITUALS

About a month before Thaipusam, a devotee has to prepare himself spiritually, living a life of abstinence while maintaining a strict vegetarian diet. It is believed that only when the mind is free of material worth and the body free from physical pleasures can a person undertake the sacred task without feeling any pain.

VARIOUS TYPE OF KAVADIS

PAAL KAVADI

Usually a wooden arch carried by the devotee. It is an offering symbolising abundance and fertility.

SPIKE KAVADI

A semi-circular steel frame with bars for support on the shoulders. Spear-like spikes attached to the metal frame pierce the body of the kavadi bearer. It is normally decorated with flowers and peacock feathers.

CHARIOT KAVADI

A portable altar is placed on a wooden chariot decorated with flowers and peacock feathers. The chariot is attached with hooks to a devotee’s back and is pulled along.

MILK POTS

Many women and children carry milk pots with milk offerings for Lord murugan as a form of thanksgiving.

PALKUDAM

A pot of milk to be poured over the statue of Lord murguan after the procession

CARRYING KAVADIS

This ritual, meaning “sacrifice at every step”, is usually done in fulfilment of a vow that a devotee would have taken. At the end of the procession, milk is offered to symbolise the cleansing of the mind and soul and the seeking of blessings.

CLARINET AND DRUM

Musicians playing the “Nadhaswaram”, a type of Indian clarinet, and the “Thavil”, a barrel shaped drum

DRUMMER

“Urumi melam” (Indian drum) player

SPIKE KAVADI

Can weigh as much as 40kg and reach a height of 4m

PIERCINGS

A form of sacrifice that includes piercing cheeks and tongue with silver needles and pricking the body with hooks and spear-like needles

SYMBOLISM OF CARRYING KAVADI

Originated from a myth where the kavadi represents a mountain, with Lord murugan at its apex


FAST FACTS

Expected to draw more than 250 kavadi bearers

10,000 devotees are expected to carry milk pots

30,000 members of the public are expected to throng the streets, not including the migrant worker crowds usually seen in Little India on Sundays

800 personnel to ensure smooth running of even

Cost of event: $250,000


WHEN 

Starts midnight tonight

THE ROUTE

The 4km procession will start from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and end at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road

LIVE MUSIC POINTS

8am to 10.30pm Temple musicians or “urumi melam”, Indian drum players, will be playing on three stages at Hastings Road, Short Street and Bras Basah Green

TRANSMISSION MUSIC POINTS PLAYING KAVADI SINDHU

8am to 10.30pm Outside Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, Baboo Lane, Cuff Road, Princep Street, Dhoby Ghaut Green, outside Sri Thendayuthapani Temple and head shaving area at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

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