Thaipusam – sacrifice at every step

Singapore is a city with multicultural diversity and during the full moon of the 10th Tamil month, called Thai, the traditional festival, Thaipusam is held.

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The festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan), who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil.

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I headed over to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple early morning to witness the devotee as they prepare themselves for the walk to Sri Mariamman Temple. Men and women are working themselves into a trance before piercing cheeks and tongue with silver needles and pricking the body with hooks and spare-like needles.

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Some wearing ‘Kavadi’ and others just simply carry a pot of milk, an offering which symbolises abundance and fertility to the Hindus.

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‘Kavadi’ literally means ‘sacrifice at every step’ in Tamil, and indeed, this proves to be the case if you take a closer look. A semi-circular steel or wooden frame, a ‘kavadi’ is meant to be hoisted by a devotee for the length of the procession. It has bars for support on the shoulders, is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers, and has spikes that pierce into the body.

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I followed the devotees along the way from the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple to Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple. Devotees will walk the 4.5 kilometres, along with relatives and friends who chant hymns and prayers to support and encourage them.

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The Symbolism of carrying KAVADI originated from a myth where the kavadi represents a mountain, with Lord murugan at its apex. A spike kavadi can weigh up to 40kg and reach a height of 4m.

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I first went to see this festival some years back when I got to know about it from some friends. It falls on different days depending on the time of the full moon, so this time as it was during the weekend I had the changes to see it again and take some photos.

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What I witnessed this day was a powerful festival, full of group support, lots of energy, determination and teamwork. I was amazed to see that with discipline over mind and body, anything is possible.

 

 

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