Thaipusam is big Hindu festival celebration in Malaysia. It is the time when devotees will carry kavadi, milk pot (with milk of course), or other forms of devotion to fulfil vows made to Lord Muruga.

There are two places in where this Malaysia festival celebration is done in a big way, in Penang at the Arulmigu Balathandayutha-pani hilltop temple and Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur.

Batu Caves in Kuala LumpurThe celebration is very big and considered even bigger than Deepavali and of course the road to either place would be congested. The celebration not only brought along devotees fulfilling their vows but also drew in tourist (overseas and locals alike and of course photographers) who would like to witness and capture this popular event.

The celebration will start with the Lord Muruga’s silver chariot which would be carried from one temple to the final destinations above. In Penang it would be carried from Kovil Veedu temple house from Lorong Kulit to Jalan Utama to Waterfall Rad before reaching the hilltop temple. While in KL, the silver chariot will start off from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee and the processing will proceed to Batu Caves. The procession will start the night before the Thaipusam Day.


 

Before the devotees could fulfil their vows, there is a period of fasting for 48 days and abstaining from various pleasures. As one of the devotees said, it was like living the life of a priest that will help them to prepare mentally and physically for carrying the kavadis. So there is a period of preparation not just on the day itself but many days before the actual Thaipusam day.

Legend has it that Thaipusam began when the goddess Parvathi, Murugan’s mother, gave him a bow and arrow to destroy an evil force known as Soorapadman. Murugan’s success in restoring prosperity and the well-being of the people had become an occasion for Hindus to celebrate and observe Thaipusam.

For those who would like to avoid the crowd and congestion, you could of course go there days earlier. Already there are devotees fulfilling their vows as much as a week before as they too would like to avoid the crowd and congestion. Yes, the congestion is pretty bad because I was caught in an hour long jam while passing by Batu Caves trying to head off to the Karak Highway on Thaipusam day itself.

Because of the big crowd and festivities, a large number of police personnel were deployed to control the traffic and nab any opportune robbers and thieves. Well the police did manage to catch many, so as a tourist do watch out for your belongings and expensive camera equipment.

Also on hand I saw many Red Crescent First-Aiders on hand to help out in any medical emergency. With the hot weather and crowded place, do remember to hydrate yourself to keep from getting heat-stroke and dehydration.

For those who drive, you could park on the road side of the highway leading to Batu Caves. Although illegal on a normal day, the police allows for the helter-skelter parking to accommodate the large number of turnouts. And yes, it would be a long walk, but you could try your luck nearer to temple, but then you will have to join the traffic jam for a long while and the chances are slim to find one nearby. You just have to try if you don’t want to walk so much.

Thaipusam is not just celebrated in the above two locations, while I was in Raub, they too had their own procession and celebration. So if you happen to be in any other places other than Penang or Kuala Lumpur, I’m sure you would be able to get to see such a Thaipusam celebration albeit on a smaller scale.

And yes, this is truly a multi-cultural experience. This is not just for the Indians in Malaysia. Chinese, Malay and other nationals do join in for the celebration. As some overseas tourist remarked.

Kreig Sylvain, 27, from Switzerland came to see for herself after hearing so much about the Thaipusam celebration. “It was really an eye-opener. In Switzerland, we celebrate our festivals in church and people have this serious look on their faces.

“It is so different here, people are smiling and enjoying themselves. It is really cheerful,” said Kreig, who works in Malacca.

Lesley McBride, 32, from Scotland said this was her first visit to Batu Caves and it was an amazing experience. “The colours, the exotic smell and the lively music. Everyone here is so devout,” said Lesley, who lives in Kuala Lumpur with her husband Scott.

Even some Indian nationals from India said the Thaipusam celebration in Malaysia is much better than that held in India.

Truly this is one experience not to be missed. So the next time you are planning for a trip around this period, see if you can work in a visit for the Thaipusam celebration. The Thaipusam day is based on the Indian calendar so the actual Thaipusam day is during a period around January/February. So you will have to consult a Malaysia Holiday calendar to find out the exact day it will fall on.

Cheers!

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