Friday, February 5, 2010

Malaysia festival : Thaipusam

Thaipusam (Tamil: தைப்பூசம்) is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). It is also referred to as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam in the Malayalam language. The word Thai-pusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates both the birthday of Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of god Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.

This year's Taipusam festival was celebrated by Malaysian Hindu on 30-1-2010.

Malaysian Hindu

Hinduism was prevalent in Malaysia prior to the arrival of Islam in the 15th century. Traces of Hindu influence remain in the Malay language, literature and art. Ancient Malay Kingdoms like Gangga Negara, Langkasuka. Old Kedah, Srivijaya, Majapahit, Malacca Sultanate, Champa, and many city states and costal states were Hindu kingdoms. But most of the kingdoms later become Islamic sultanates. Since the period of the powerful South India kingdom of the Cholas in the 11th century, Tamils were among the most important trading peoples of maritime Asia.

The overwhelming majority of migrants from India were ethnic Tamil and from British Presidency of Madras. In 1947 they represented approximately 85 per cent of the total Indian population in Malaya and Singapore. Other South Indians, mainly Telugus and Malayalees, formed a further 14 per cent in 1947, and the remainder of the Indian community was accounted for by North Indians, principally Punjabis, Bengalis, Gujaratis, and Sindhis

Indian settlers came to Malaysia from Tamil Nadu in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of these came to work as labourers on rubber plantations, while those who were English-educated occupied more professional positions. A minority of Indian immigrants to Malaysia during this time period came from Northern India and Sri Lanka.

Most of the Indian are Hindu, and some are Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist. The practice of Hinduism began to rise during the second wave of people from the Indian subcontinent during British rule. Hinduism is the most practised religion amongst the Tamils comprising of the both the major Hindu and Tamil pantheon of deities. Tamils of both Indian and Sri Lankan backgrounds practice Hinduism. Telugus predominantly belong to the Vaisnavite branch of Hinduism, with a minority among them belonging to Christianity and Islam. Amongst the North Indians are the Gujarati, Sindhi, Bengali, and Punjabi Hindus

The Thaipusam Festival

Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War. It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasizes debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.

Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity.

Preparation for festival
Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.

On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.

The simplest kavadi is a semi circular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.

The celebration
The largest Thaipusam celebrations take place is India, Singapore, Mauritius and Malaysia. It is a public holiday in several states in Malaysia, including Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Penang, Perak, Johor, Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. The Taipusam is celebrated in grand scale at Kuala Lunpur(procession from Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur), Penang(Nattukottai Chettiar Temple along Jalan Waterfall), Ipoh(Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh, Ipoh, Perak).

Recently there are many ethic Chinese in Malaysia participated in Thaipusam celebration.

The following are some of the video uploaded from youtube...


Kuala Lumpur

Related articles:

1. Thaipusam,
2. Hinduism in Malaysia,
3. Malaysian Indian,
4. Thaipusam joy around the country,

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