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Video source from The Rakyat Post:
Automated milk abishegam at Batu Caves
Picture source from The Rakyat Post
So, this year Thaipusam brings a new controversy at Batu Caves. The temple management introduced an mechanised method to conduct paal (milk) abhishegam (offering) for Lord Muruga. Usually, Hindus will do penance of carrying the paal kudam (silver container) for a distance and pouring it on Lord Muruga statue as way of fulfilling their vows, be it good results in exams, better job, recovery from illness, etc etc.
Fulfilling a vow is not just limited to the carrying and pouring of the milk. The person has to be in penance, like fast for certain amount of days, refrain from worldly activities as much as possible, be vegetarian and so on. The whole process is to reflect the hardship one is willing to go through in order to fulfill his/her part of the vow. And it ends as you offer your gift to Lord Muruga.
However due to very large number of devotees doing paal abhishegam at Batu Caves, the temple management find it hard to please those coming to pray who get blocked by the act of pouring milk non-stop. Imagine, even though Thaipusam is a week away, devotees had started fulfilling vows about a week earlier (since start of the month of Thai). Thaipusam falls on specific days, so I’m not sure if their vow is to do paal abishegam during Thai month or during Thaipusam day (but that’s another story for another day).
But this didn’t go down well those who intended to fulfill the vow and also many otherr Hindus. The general feeling is that the pouring of milk should done physically by the person or the priest.
The Hindu Sangam via its president also issued a statement (though I’m not sure why the statement is saying Dato Mohan Shan “vendukol” – request instead of Hindu Sangam “arivippu” – notice or “arikai” -statement).
Basically what the notice above states is that the practise of using mechanised method is not according Hindu agamas (scriptures dealing with temples, rituals, yoga, etc) as the items for abhishegam which is intended for Lord Muruga should not be poured into another container first. The excuse given that there’s lack of volunteers and priests to assist in the manual process should be tackled in other ways.
I’m not sure how the Mariamman Devasthanam can implement such decision without consulting the main Hinduism body in the country. Does this show some conflict or ego? Or lack of belief in MHS?
As for me, I would say, devotee need to be clear on what they vowed. There are many Murugan temples in Malaysia, so perhaps in future can vow in different temple. One can say, its the thought that counts, while another will say must do it as vowed. Each to his own, as we can’t know how God decides. This may be part of your Karma, for all we know.
Perhaps in future Batu Caves temple can issue limited place for paal abhishegam. Let’s say 500,000 and divided into different time shifts on the day. Same goes for kavadi bearers. So before you do the vow, you will need to buy the “voucher” earlier. Voucher should be non-transferable and sold in a transparent manner. Just my two cents.
Below is comment from Hindraf regarding the move by Batu Caves temple management.
Article from Rakyat Post:
For Hindus, paying penance to their deities by carrying milk pots is a common practice, especially during the annual Thaipusam festival.
This year, the Batu Caves Murugan temple management will be implementing a new system to ease congestion.
A spokesman said the temple would be using an automated system for the first four days of Thaipusam, which would see devotees emptying their milk pots into a drum.
The drum would then channel the liquid via hoses, to a pot attached to a machine inside the main temple, where the milk offering ritual is done.
Typically, the milk pots carried by devotees are passed to the temple’s priests, who will then shower the deities’ statues with milk while uttering mantras as a form of blessing.
“We just want to ease congestion during this festive period. We expect a huge crowd this time around,” said the spokesman.
This system, which has been in the testing stage the last two days, will only be used on the first four days of Thaipusam, which falls on Feb 3. It is not known how much the system costs.
Meanwhile, Hindraf has lambasted the temple management over the system’s implementation.
“Hindraf is totally mystified by the committee’s attitude in pursuing the system as it clearly desecrates the Hindu rites and practices.
“It appears that the committee has no regard for the feelings of thousands of devotees who have undertaken severe penance to participate in showering their Paal Kodam (milk pots) in the final ritual known as abishekam during the Thaipusam festival,” Hindraf chairman P. Waytha Moorthy said in a statement.
He added it was widely believed that the practice of showering milk on the deity was a process of cleansing oneself of one’s sins.
“Such practice is conducted worldwide in India, Fiji, Sri Lanka, USA, the United Kingdom, Australia and Singapore during the Thaipusam month.
“Even in India, millions of people who bring their milk pots have the satisfaction of their milk being showered individually by priests, who normally chant mantras, as opposed to the motorised method intended to be practised in Batu Caves.
Waytha said motorising a “personal and spiritual” ritual not only desecrated Hindu rites, but also insulted individual devotees who had painstakingly undertaken severe penance to fulfil their devotion to the deity.
He called on the temple management to review the use of the machine, failing which he urged devotees to forgo Batu Caves and pay their penance elsewhere.