Facts about Thaipusam

I’ve often been asked by my colleagues and friends who are non-Hindu what is the purpose of celebrating Thaipusam. Why are some Hindus seen walking long distances, carrying heavy loads on their shoulders or have long needles pierced through different parts of their bodies?

There are lots of articles on the Web that provides information and facts about Thaipusam. Some websites and blog articles have provided baseless information and to some extent, even put the celebration of Thaipusam in a very negative light. Hence it is my duty to highlight to readers that when searching on the Web, to be S.U.R.E. if the writer or publisher was a credible source of information, and if the information presented was objective.

Here are some basic facts about Thaipusam:

Definition

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of “Thai”. Thaipusam is actually derived from “thai” which means “10th”, and “pusam” meaning,  “when the moon is at its brightest”. It is thus annually celebrated when the moon is full in the Tamil month of Thai (between January and February).

Attire and distance

Devotees dressed in yellow (auspicious colour for Hindus) will walk long distances, carrying offerings, to reach the temple of the Lord Murugan. In Singapore, the long distance covers Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple located at Tank Road. Devotees will be seen chanting hymns as they walk.

Rites and rituals

Female and young devotees will carry “Paal Kudam” known as milk pot and while male devotees will be seen carrying “Kavadi” which consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders of the devotee. At least a week before Thaipusam, devotees are required to observe strict physical and mental discipline, and also fasting in the form of keeping one’s diet strictly to vegetarian food. Most importantly, devotees will also prepare themselves spiritually with extensive prayer before performing acts of penance or thanksgiving by carrying a Kavadi or Paal Kudam from one temple to another.

Contributor: Yashodha Devi Nadarajan, Associate, NLB

References:

Image source: Thaipusam by Anhgemus Dinh via Flickr


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