Saturday, 18 January 2014

Thaipusam celebration is the Hindu festival that is also a huge tourist attraction

Yesterday, millions of Hindu devotees will gather in Hindu temples all over the country to celebrate Thaipusam. Also known as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam in Malayalam (in Tamil,Thai refers to the month that falls in January or February and Poosam means celebrating the full moon), it is a day to commemorate Lord Muruga, one of the deities in the religion, who is also the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Thaipusam is also a celebration to mark a religious event in Hindu mythology where Lord Muruga defeated the evil entity Soorapadman using a lance (Vel) from his mother.

Muruga’s triumph over evil and him restoring peace and harmony has since been a sacred historical event for Hindu devotees to celebrate.

One of the most identifiable features of Thaipusam is the display of gratitude by devotees at Thaipusam festivals. Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Lord Muruga.

In Malaysia, Kavadi is also a Thaipusam ritual that has become a tradition among the Hindu devotees, where they wear and carry an apparatus on their bodies and walk barefooted up the steps of Batu Caves. 

This apparatus is meant to be burdensome, as it features sharp, pain-inducing spears that pierce through the skin. Accepting suffering and pain affliction is a vivid demonstration of devotion and worship towards Lord Muruga.
The colourful Kavadi-bearing ritual is a fascinating feature of tourism activities in the country, particularly during Visit Malaysia campaigns, attracting hundreds and thousands of tourists to marvel and photograph the event.
Main Tourist Attraction

Today, as it is every year, the festival of Thaipusam will take place at the Sri Subramania Swamy Temple, Batu Caves. Tourists and Hindu pilgrims from inside and outside the country will participate and relish upon the splendour of the religious ceremony which is held at one of the oldest Hindu temples in the world. 

They too, along with local people, join in the celebration by ascending the arduous 272 steps into the mouth of the temple's cave.

Stephen Sren, 27, admits that the main reason he came to the country was because he wanted to witness the events of Thaipusam.
Sren (left) with his friend wouldn't miss Thaipusam for anything.
“I was told that Thaipusam is going to be a huge and colourful event. For sure I am not going to miss this,” said the young German tourist.

This is the his first visit to Malaysia and he chose Batu Caves as his first point of interest.

“My friends had continually told me about this place, so I had to see it for myself,” added Sren who came here with a friend.

He also found that there are various types of public transportation services available allowing him to reach Batu Caves without any hassle.

“The public transportation here is welcomingly efficient,” said the lanky male tourist.

Sren was also enthralled by the gargantuan 42.7m statue of Lord Muruga standing in front of him that he said, “I am so glad I am here to see this”.

The tall 140-feet structure was built at a cost of RM2.5 million, took 3 years to complete by 15 sculptors from India.

Income Generator

As Thaipusam is a religious ceremony that attracts tourists, Malaysians are encouraged to play their part and promote the event.

Dato' Seri Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture Malaysia in a report published in the local daily Berita Harian, said he implore all Malaysians to support and ensure the success of Visit Malaysia 2014 (VMY2014).

“It is a duty for all Malaysians to ensure that our guests are treated with respect and tact when we introduce the many tourist attractions our country has to offer,” reminded the Minister.

The tourism ministry reports that VMY2014 will welcome some 28 million tourists, bringing a potential tourism revenue of RM76 billion.

A Joyful Celebration

A university student who hails from Syria, Mazen Al-Dabbas, 24, said there was never a year went by where he didn’t visit Batu Caves.

“Before I came to Malaysia to further my tertiary education, I did a lot of research on religious history and the legends about Lord Muruga brought me to Batu Caves. Previously I had no idea about Thaipusam.

“The uniqueness of the Hindu religion as one of the world’s oldest religion, the fantastic legend of Lord Muruga, the majesty of Batu Caves – which has hundreds of steps - and the giant Lord Muruga statue are all amazing to tourists,” said the Syrian, who studies at Limkokwing University.

Early Preparation

We were at Batu Caves days before the day of Thaipusam and already there were Hindu devotees resplendent in yellow garb paying their ‘dues’ at the temples.

Shamala Shanmugan, 27, who was accompanying her father, said avoiding the hustle and bustle of Thaipusam day is the reason why some devotees chose to pay their dues a few days earlier.
Some chose to 'redeem' themselves days before Thaipusam just so they could avoid the hectic crowd.
“My father wants to avoid the tourists who are expected to crowd the place, that’s why he decided to come here a few days earlier. Ordinarily, the breaking of the coconut shell and head-shaving are done on the day itself,” explained Shamala.

Meanwhile, Faizal Azhar, 33, shared his view as a non-Hindu.Some chose to 'redeem' themselves days before Thaipusam just so they could avoid the hectic crowd. Some chose to 'redeem' themselves days before Thaipusam just so they could avoid the hectic crowd.

According to him, every religion has its own way to absolve the self from sins, and as a Malaysian of a different religion, he knows he must respect the differences in religious obligations.

“In any houses of worship, there has to be a set of guidelines observed. It is no different with Thaipusam.

“That said, I’m sure there are those who will complain of traffic jams (because of the religious processions of Thaipusam on public roads) and not being able to enjoy their break from work but all of this is the unique feature of our country,” said the middle-aged Malay man, hoping that people will learn to be more understanding of others.

Big In Penang Too!

Besides Batu Caves, Penang is also an important place to celebrate Thaipusam.

A tourist from Australia, Jainny Thomas, 56, shared her experience at the Balathandayuthapani Temple, a few years ago.
Jainny Thomas, 56, (right) with her family.
“This is my fourth visit to Malaysia and my second experience of Thaipusam festivities. The first was when I was with my husband and at the time, I could not stand the crowd and noises. But after I paid attention to what’s going on, then I started to realise that it is an important celebration.

“Now I look forward to seeing the moment where they break the coconuts in large quantities. It is awesome. Also the display of the Kavadi decorations on the bodies of the bearers,” said the tourist vigorously.

She brought her children to visit Malaysia this year so they too could appreciate what Thaipusam has to offer and at the same time take the opportunity to visit all other attractions VMY2014 has lined for tourists.

Thaipusam is huge not just for the Hindu pilgrims everywhere but it is also an event that has become a strong feature of Malaysian tourism.

On that note, we would like to wish our Malaysian Digest Hindu readers, Happy Thaipusam!

Vel! Vel! Vetri Vel!
Source : Malaysian Digest


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