Thursday, February 26, 2009

Learning about Thaipusam in the year 2009

Sri Thendayuthapani Temple

I write this post to share with anyone of my friends who wish to get a glimpse of Thaipusam. This post is specially written for you.

I have lived in Singapore for close to three decades. I have heard about the festival of Thaipusam ever since I was in Primary School. I have caught glimpses of a Thaipusam procession taking place just once in my life, on a bus. However, for the past years, I have never made time to participate in the Thaipusam festival so as to experience it. I am glad that I have made time to observe the festival, and even walked the 4 kilometres walk that devotees would make from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (along Serangoon Road) to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (at Tank Road).

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the Thaipusam festival is dedicated to Lord Subramaniam, also known as Lord Murugan. It "commemorates the feats of the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam, son of Lord Siva. It also acknowledges Subramaniam's triumph over the evil forces." (Source: Singapore Infopedia).

I am glad that this year Thaipusam was celebrated on the weekends. This made it much more convenient for me to make time to learn about it. The most challenging part was to figure out when would be a good time to experience the Thaipusam. I have, admittedly, very limited knowledge of the festival. I am just starting to learn about it.

Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

How did I get myself started? First of all, I used the online search engines to find out about the festival. Then I asked a friend of mine who's an Indian and she kindly directed me to the website of the Hindu Endowments Board and I found out more about the schedules for Thaipusam 2009. The next step was to make time to observe the festival.

Tents for dismantle of kavadi

On 7 Feb 2009, I visited the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in the mid afternoon when there was no crowd yet. There was a sense of peace as people in the temple attempted to prepare for the festival.

I realised that there were Chinese who had volunteered to prepare free flow of food for the devotees. Preparations for the food had started way before the event started.

Food preparations at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

Nearby Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple was a Thaipusam Heritage Corner that was set up just opposite the Serangoon Plaza. The exhibits there gave visitors a better appreciation of the festival. I was grateful that a youth volunteer took time to explain the exhibits to me, and to enlighten me with the significance of the heritage.

The Heritage Corner.

An exhibit featuring the Vel.

At the exhibition, I learnt about Lord Murugan's Vel. It is a divine spear that symbolises "Gnana Sakthi" (Power of Knowledge) and is considered "one of the most powerful weapons against ills and negative characteristics such as ignorance, lust, anger etc. Interestingly, the various parts of the Vel symbolises different values and virtues. For example, "the point of the Vel symbolises the need to sharpen our minds so as to differentiate between good and evil".

The exhibition also showed photos that depicted how Thaipusam was celebrated decades ago. In those days, the chariot in the procession was pulled by animals such as the bull. Today, it is moved using machinery. Whatever it is, my sense of Thaipusam is that faith is always alive in the hearts of the devotees no matter how Thaipusam is being celebrated over the years.

After viewing the Thaipusam Heritage Corner, my next destination was Chinatown. I was planning to witness the Silver Chariot Procession that would start at 6 p.m. from the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple along Keong Saik Road.

Meantime, please stay tuned for my next post on Thaipusam 2009.

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