When I visited Penang recently, I did not realize that I would experience another Thaipusam festival in Penang (my first would be in Singapore a couple of years ago).
Thaipusam is a festival in a place where there are many Tamil communities. Usually happens in January or February, depends on the position of a star (Pusam). The Thaipusam festival is to remember when Parvati (the wife of Shiva) gave Murugan (the son) a Vel (spear) to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.
During the festival, there are some people that bring kavadi – a burden that he must bring as a vow after he was received something (healthy life, recovery, or others) from the god. A kavadi can be a form of a milk pot or anything that is carried on their shoulders. Some will pierce their body, including their cheek with ‘arrows’ or other things.
My friend – Aggy from DEWTraveler, and I actually didn’t plan to look at this festival, but I encouraged her to see the festival as this is special. We were told that the festival started from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Lebuh Queen, but once we got there, there’s nothing there. We only saw the smashed coconut (as a symbol to shatter someone’s ego to reach self-realization) in front of the temple. Then we decided to just go directly to Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple that is located near the Botanical Garden.
The road near the Botanical Garden was closed, so we needed to walk a bit from the bus stop. Apparently there were already plenty of people in this location when we arrived in the afternoon.
We did have a chance to see the devotees carrying the kavadi heading to the new temple on the hill.
When I looked at the photos of the devotees that I took, I realize that the job of the devotees carrying the kavadi is really heavy. They needed to carry the kavadi from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple barefoot to the Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple where the distance is aroud 6KM and some of them pierce their body. But from the devotees point of view, this is the thing that they need to fulfill as a vow to their god.
The festivals has drawn people not only from the Tamil race, but from other races too. The visitors came to see the Tamil tradition that happened not only in Penang, but also in other places, such as in Kuala Lumpur (Batu Caves) and in Singapore.
I’ve been to Batu Caves for a visit before, and also I have witnessed Thaipusam festivals when I was living in Singapore. Seeing this festival again in Penang was a really interesting experience for me as a visitor. Although I didn’t follow the festival until the end, at least I could see a more ‘complete’ version of Thaipusam festival as I only watched the devotees doing the pilgrimage in Little India, Singapore, before. I also started to realize that nowadays, the devotees are not only from the Tamil, but I saw a Chinese guy entering the temple where there were still several metal hooks (to hang the milking pots) on his body.
The new temple of Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani is located above the hill, and to reach there, we needed to climb 513 stairs! It has more stairs then the one in Batu Caves. Whoos whoos! Haha …
Apparently, before entering the temple on the hill, the entrance was divided into three. We just followed the people in front of me that I think are visitors too. From what I saw on the television that was installed on the pillar near the queue line, one of the processions happened inside the temple was to bath the god with the milk.
Not only that, as we’re on the hill, we got a wonderful view of Penang from above.
So I just wish to those who celebrate the festival:
Happy Thaipusam! 🙂