Thaipusam news around the country

February 9th, 2009 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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Going through the papers, I realised that Samy Vellu was in Batu Caves. Not sure what time he gave his speech (more on that later), but it did happen while I was there:

“I welcome all concerned Indians, including former MIC members and those from other political parties, to join the MIC as this is the only party that can effectively represent the interests of Indians,” he told reporters at the Thaipusam festival celebrations at Batu Caves today.

But watching the news was a bit disconcerting. I find it hard to accept that Malaysian newscasters can’t pronounce words like kavadi, paal kudam, Murugan etc. properly. I mean, we are not talking about some foreign stuff, but Malaysian event which have been in existence for more than a century!

By the way, recently reinstated MIC member, KP Samy asked the Batu Caves temple management to retract its police report on the HINDRAF rally attendees who camped in the compounds in the famous 2007 rally.

A MIC leader today urged the Batu Caves Hindu temple committee to withdraw police reports lodged against thousands of Hindraf supporters who had gathered at the temple on Nov 24, 2007.

MCPX

The crowd, which had gathered at the temple to take part in a massive rally the next day, was forcibly moved out of the temple compound by the police using teargas and water cannons in the early hours of Nov 25, 2007.

About 70 of them were subsequently charged in court for illegal assembly and destroying public property (the temple gates). The cases against them are ongoing.

Grassroots leader and Shahbandar Shah Alam MIC branch head KP Samy said that in the aftermath of the standoff at the temple, the temple committee had lodged police reports against the Hindraf supporters.

“Perhaps the temple committee as a goodwill gesture will withdraw the police reports in conjunction with the Thaipusam festival tomorrow,” Samy told Malaysiakini.

He said that the temple committee must remember that its actions in “shutting out” these people had resulted in a massive boycott of the Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves by the Indian community last year.

The former MIC central working committee member, who is known for his open support for the Hindraf cause, added the removal of the police reports by the complainants would make it easier for lawyers of those charged in court to make a representation to the Attorney General to drop charges.

“It has been more than a year now. Some of the people who have been charged are factory workers and students. Some are also from outstation.

“The trial has been a burden on them. It’s time the temple did something to close this chapter. Just withdraw the police reports,” he said.

Ok, enough of that, let’s see what the papers say.

NST report 1:

Thousands of Lord Murugan devotees thronged Batu Caves yesterday, the eve of Thaipusam, to climb 272 steps leading to the cave temple in an act of penance.

While the bigger kavadis were not seen before noon, a number of devotees comprising mostly women and children, started their climb early in the day at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple.

Many were carrying paal kudam (milk pot), including 30-year-old Jana, who brought along her son, Tejesh, 4.

Clad in a yellow salwar kameez (Indian pants suit), Jana said she was fulfilling a vow she made “many years ago”.

As for her son, she wanted him to develop an understanding of religion and penance at a young age.

Another devotee, R. Prabaharan, 38, took his 5-month-old daughter, Yashirie, to the temple and got her head shaved.

“She had to undergo surgery when she was only two months old, so I made a vow for her speedy recovery. She is a healthy baby now.”

To the foreign tourists, the sight of the enormous golden Lord Murugan statue against the backdrop of the limestone hills was a sight to behold.

“We are passing through Kuala Lumpur and my sister, who has been here before, told us to visit Batu Caves during Thaipusam,” said Australian Kimberly Attard, who is here with her partner, Brad Taylor, both 19.

“We’re glad we came. It’s amazing.”

The tourists were enchanted by the sight of devotees carrying kavadis with hooks pierced to their skin, while moving in a trance to chants.

The temporary food stalls erected within the temple grounds were crowded with visitors buying sweets and savoury palagaram ( snacks).

However, it was sluggish sales at stalls selling clothes. [probably the economy plays a role as well]

T. Maheswaran, who runs a stall in Klang selling Indian accessories on weekends, hoped more people would visit at night.

“So far, it has been pretty quiet,” he said.

A. Sivanantham, who operates the 40-year-old Amutha Restaurant in the temple grounds, was busy at the cash counter.

His cooks had prepared vegetarian food for about 4,000 devotees yesterday, and he was expecting to serve some 6,000 today.

NST Report  2:

Devotees lined the streets to break coconuts in conjunction with Thaipusam yesterday.

A colourful chariot procession marked the start of the festival at 6am.

It started in Lebuh Penang and proceeded via Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Victoria, Jalan C.Y. Choy, Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, Jalan Magazine, Jalan Datuk Keramat and Jalan Utama to the main temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga.

The silver chariot was made in 1894 by craftsmen from Karaikudi in Tamil Nadu, South India.

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival associated with penance and atonement and a day to repent by fulfilling vows.

More than 100 beautifully decorated thaneer panthal (makeshift refreshment stalls) were set up along the route, providing free vegetarian food and drinks to devotees.

More than 800,000 people, including tourists, are expected to take part in the three-day celebration.

NST Report 3:

More than 800,000 Hindu devotees braved the blazing sun to fulfil their vows on the second day of Thaipusam today.[something wrong with this report as its the FIRST day, not second!. And I’m not sure if 800k count is accurate]

It was a sight to behold as devotees carrying kavadi walked three kilometres along Jalan Air Terjun to the hilltop temple near the Botanical Gardens.

Overseas tourists were enthralled by the act of penance – the devotees moving in a trance with their kavadi with hooks piercing their skin.

John Pearce from the United Kingdom said it was an eye-opening experience.

“I love the sights and sounds of Thaipusam … the people are very warm, and explained the significance of the festival to my family and me. The electrifying mood has made my first trip to Penang a memorable one,” he said.

Japanese tourist Hidaki Tomoko praised the faith of the Hindu devotees fulfilling their vows. “I am impressed by their sheer determination to perform the ritual,” he said.

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival associated with penance and atonement, and a day to fulfil vows. The three-day celebration kicked off on Saturday. [what does it mean by 3-day celebration? Pusam star took its turn on Sunday 6.25am]

The 113-year-old grand silver chariot bearing the image of Lord Muruga left the Kovil Veddu in Jalan Penang at 6.30am.

Along the way, tens of thousands of devotees stretched out their hands, and trays filled with flowers, fruit, incense, burning camphor and perfumed joss sticks, to welcome Lord Muruga as the chariot made several stops along the 18km route to the Nattukottai Chettiar Thandayuthapani Kovil in Jalan Air Terjun.

The chariot, made in 1894 by craftsmen from Karaikudi in Chennai, South India, was used for the first time here for Thaipusam 1895.

Throughout its route, devotees broke coconuts, and more than 100 beautifully-decorated thaneer panthal, makeshift refreshment stalls, were set up providing free food and drinks to devotees.

IN PORT KLANG, V. Shankar Ganesh reports that 30,000 people celebrated Thaipusam at the Sri Balasubramaniar Swamy temple and the Sri Subramaniar temple in Kuala Selangor, a far cry from the 100,000 who thronged the two temples last year in a boycott of the celebration at Batu Caves called to protest the marginalisation of the Indian community.[have to wait for more reports from the two temples to estimate final numbers]

About 400 people carried Paal Kudam (milk pots) at the Port Klang temple, and about 20 kavadi. There were about 20 stalls and thaneer panthal, where free food and drink were available for the devotees. Makkal Sakthi also carried out a registration exercise for those without birth certificates and identity cards. This is the second year the temple is celebrating Thaipusam.

Menteri Besar Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim visited the Sri Subramaniar temple in Kuala Selangor. He promised three temples in the state RM50,000 each to help them organise festivals.

The money is from the RM6 million annual allocation for non-Muslim places of worship in the state.

The Sri Balasubramaniar Swamy temple, the Sri Subramaniar temple and a third temple in Hulu Selangor will receive it.

Khalid promised to look into a request from the Kuala Selangor temple committee to place its Thaipusam celebration in the Selangor tourism diary.

State executive councillor Ronnie Liu visited the Port Klang temple and said the State would help organise the festival and make it grander next year.

The Star report 1:

Tens of thousands of devotees who had been gathering here since Saturday braved a scorching sun to pay their respects to the Hindu deity Lord Murugan and to received his blessings on Thaipusam.

The holy day has been a three-day festival for many because it fell on a weekend this year.

More than 1.2 million devotees, well-wishers and tourists are expected to visit Batu Caves and the Murugan temple here this year.

Large crowds accompanied thousands of devotees carrying colourful kavadi (ornate frames), pal kodam (milk pots) and pulling chariots as acts of penance and to give thanks to Lord Murugan.

Those running souvenir stalls and cafes are doing a brisk business, as are barbers since many devotees shave their heads.

Non-governmental organisations are also running blood and organ donation drives.

Many devotees had been making their way to Batu Caves since last weekend.

The Star report 2:

BATU CAVES: Tens of thousands of Hindu devotees carrying kavadi and milk pots are making their way to Lord Murugan’s temple in Batu Caves to celebrate Thaipusam this morning.

Over a million devotees from all over the country are expected to gather here, with thousands carrying colourful kavadi (ornate frames), pal kodam (milk pot) and pulling chariots as acts of penance and to give thanks to Lord Murugan.

S. Geetha Devi, 38, who is a volunteer with a movement to promote spiritual healing and meditation, said the devotees would carry milk pots and kavadi up the 272 steps to the heart of the cave, where the shrine of the main deity, Lord Murugan, is located.

“There are many ways to thank Lord Murugan such as shaving the head bald and by carrying milk pots or kavadi. The act of penance depends on the type of vow a person has made,” she said.

She added that those who carried milk pots or kavadi will undergo a cleansing ceremony at the riverside near the base of the temple.

She also said that devotees prepare for Thaipusam by observing certain rituals including being vegetarian, or fasting for weeks and in some cases even months before the festival.

Devotees have been making their way to Batu Caves since last weekend and many are expected to visit the temple after today to avoid the crowd.

Universiti Malaya undergraduate P. Vishalleey, 22, who was visiting Batu Caves for the first time, said the crowd here was smaller than the one in Penang.

“It was not very crowded today (Saturday), and this could be due to the SMSes and calls to boycott Batu Caves last year,” she said.

Ivan Zuzartee, 49, who is a Christian, said he had come with his family to witness the colourful occasion. His son Anton, seven, was thrilled that he got to climb the steps at Batu Caves.

There is also a 3D exhibit of Hindu Gods and Goddesses including works depicting the Ramayana housed in a cave. The exhibit (ticket price RM5) was recently reopened after undergoing restoration works.

“Besides being a tourist attraction, the exhibit is also educational as many Hindus do not know the story of the Ramayana,” said the exhibition’s events manager M. Vikram.

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