Monday, March 02, 2009

The Chariot procession

This post continues from my previous post on my participation in Thaipusam 2009 as an observer. I visited the Thaipusam Heritage Corner when I was in Serangoon area and learnt quite a bit about the festival of Thaipusam.

Thanks to the information that I had gotten from the Hindu Endowment Board's website, I have learnt that there was a Silver Chariot Procession that would take place at 6 p.m. from the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple along Keong Saik Road. The most convenient way to reach Keong Saik Road on 7 Feb 2009 was by the MRT (Mass Rapid Transit). It was also the fastest way to get to Chinatown since there were a number of road closures taking place on 7 Feb 2009 because of the Chinatown lights-up events and the Thaipusam festival.

7 Feb 2009. It was the first time in my life that I witnessed a Silver Chariot Procession. Prior to the event, I mustered enough courage to mingle with the devotees to learn more about the festival. I saw devotees carrying trays containing coconuts, banana and grapes. I was told that these items are offerings to the Gods. The coconut and the banana both symbolise purity.

Outside the temple, I was lucky to witness a part of the rituals that were to take place before the Silver Chariot Procession. Devotees were waiting outside the entrance/exit of the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple waiting for the idol of Lord Murugan to leave the temple. An observer can easily sense the devotees' strong sense of devotion to their God.

Video taken just outside the temple.

While I was waiting for the chariot procession to start, I noticed that there were men carrying kavadis on their shoulder. I had learnt from the Thaipusam Heritage Corner that I had visited much earlier the day that kavadis can come in various shapes and sizes. Some devotees actually carry their offerings of milk for Lord Muragan with their kavadis. Many of the devotees, if not most, were barefooted. I think that it will require much perseverance and strength in the devotees to carry and walk long distances with their kavadis.

I learnt a bit about a group of Indians known as the Chettiars and their close association with the Thaipusam festival while I was conversing with a few of the Indian devotees. The Chettiars are Tamils who originate from South India. This group of Tamils migrated to Singapore in the early 19th century and many became money-lenders here. I went to do some research and found that the temples which were both the starting points and the ending points of 7 Feb 2009 evening's Thaipusam Silver Chariot procession were both under the management of the Chettiars' Temple Society. Both temples were built by the Chettiars.

Meantime, while I was waiting for the Silver Chariot Procession to start, it was interesting to reflect on how Thaipusam has progressed with times. A few decades ago, the chariot was pulled by animals. Today, a vehicle would be used to pull the chariot.

When the chariot procession started, I followed it from Keong Saik Road to Maxwell Food Centre. Along the way, my ears were tuning in to the songs and music that were sang and played throughout the procession.

The start of the procession.

The Chariot procession was actually heading for the Bank of India along Robinson Road and D'Almedia Street. Eventually, it would be scheduled to reach Sri Thendayuthapani Temple by 9 p.m. I realised I needed a break, so I left the procession and headed to Chinatown area for a refreshment break. Afterwhich, I walked all the way from Chinatown area to Tank Road.

When it was close to 9 p.m., I was luck to spot the Chariot procession heading back to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple. It was an inspiring sight to see how much reverence that the devotees have of Lord Murugan, as I watched the procession. If you would like a glimpse of the procession, please view the humble video-recordings that I had taken that night.

After catching the Chariot procession reaching its destination, I took an hour's rest nearby Clarke Quay before heading to Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road. I am glad that I had made time to have a first hand experience of Thaipusam.



EastCoastLife said...

Wow... you spent so many hours covering this procession. I did not have the time for this segment. :(

But it was great reading your post and video on it.

Doreen said...

Now I learnt even more about the culture. Thanks for sharing. Really appreciate it.