: Every year, thousands of devotees participate in Thaipusam, the Hindu Festival, in thanksgiving to the diety Lord Murugan, walking from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal temple at Serangoon Road to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, Tank Road, bearing kavadis and milk pots. This year, on the midnight of Tuesday the 7th of February, I followed the family of Jeevva, age 22, as he made his four-and-a-half-kilometre walk in his kavadi, with his family singing hymns to encourage him.
It is one of the many fascinating aspects of living in a multi-racial society like Singapore, participating in each other’s festivals. I would like to thank Jeevva’s family for allowing me to tag along.
It was a thrill and honour to be in the thick of the festival, instead of reading about it in the papers or watching it on TV. I will be back.
So why do countless Tamils pierce their bodies or hook objects into their flesh, then walk for miles, chanting ‘vel-vel’? It’s a fascinating story.
Thaipusam (also spelt Thai Poosam) is celebrated during the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai. It commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Lord Murugan the vel (or spear), so he could vanquish the demon Soorapadman.
In this annual procession, some devotees carry the kavadi to fulfill their vow to Lord Murugan for granting their wishes. Some devotees do it as a form of repentance or to reaffirm their faith.
It takes a lot of preparation: 48 days of fasting with one vegetarian meal a day, praying extensively at home and in the temple, abstinence from carnal pleasures and observing silence. It’s believed that this purifies the mind and body so they can perform the sacred task without pain.