KUCHING: The Thaipusam festival yesterday saw twenty-five kavadi (decorative burdens) bearers in a procession from Sri Maha Marriamman Temple (SMMT) at Rock Road to Sri Srinivasagar Kaliamman Temple at Ban Hock Road.
Thaipusam, one of the biggest Hindu celebrations in the country, is dedicated to Lord Muruga and symbolises the triumph of good over evil.
It marks the day when Lord Shiva’s son, Muruga, was given a lance to vanquish the demon Soorapadmam.
It is celebrated annually under the full moon on the 10th month of the Hindu calendar – ‘Thai Masam’.
The festival yesterday kicked off at the Sri Maha Marriamman Temple with hundreds of Hindus gathering for prayers around 7am, while others prepared the kavadi for the 9.30am procession.
The bearers carried different types of kavadi as an act of penance and to thank Lord Muruga for prayers fulfilled. Its simplest form is the ‘Pal Kavadi’ (milk in a pot) followed by ‘Vel Kavadi’ which also requires a milk pot but is attached to a decorated burden to be placed on the shoulders of the devotees.
There is also the ‘Chariot Kavadi’ which features a milk pot attached to a more elaborate decoration and requires the devotee to pull it with hooks attached to his back.
Most of the devotees will pierce themselves with skewers (Vel) and hooks that hold the mini milk pots.
These piercings do not cause pain as the devotees are in a trance; once they are in a state of trance, the piercing is done by experienced handlers.
These piercings miraculously leave no marks or scars on the devotees.
During the procession, roads were temporarily closed by the police to help ease traffic through Jalan Tun Haji Openg, Jalan Crookshank, Lorong Park and Jalan Ban Hock.
The procession ended around 10am at Sri Srinivasagar Kaliamman Temple where the pots of milk carried by the kavadi bearers were used to bathe the effigy of Lord Muruga.
Some states in Malaysia have declared Thaipusam a public holiday.
In Sarawak, although Hindus are a minority, Thaipusam is still celebrated with great devotion.