Thousands of devotees turned up at the Batu Caves Thaipusam celebrations to fulfil their vows to Lord Muruga.
AMID the thousands of Indian devotees at the Thaipusam festival in Batu Caves, one man, a Caucasian, stood out.
He was dressed in traditional Indian attire and was noticeable among the crowd.
Carl Vadivella Belle, 65, drew curious stares from onlookers as he walked down the steps after carrying his kavadi.
A Hindu since 1979, he first had a vision of Lord Muruga in Batu Caves in 1979 and became a worshipper since then.
After the vision, he has carried the kavadi 19 times and has visited Murugan temples in Batu Caves in Gombak, Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple in Penang and Palani Mallai Temple, India.
All three temples are famous for the Thaipusam festival that commemorates Lord Muruga’s victory over Soorapadman with the vel (spear) handed to him by his mother Goddess Parvati.
“I have been carrying the kavadi since 1981 and I will stop when I get a sign from Lord Muruga,” said Belle.
The part-time farmer and academician has a doctorate in religion and is writing a book on Thaipusam.
His entire family has embraced Hinduism and he became a vegetarian since carrying his third kavadi in 1983.
Also spotted carrying the kavadi was Chowddhri Kannan, 21, whose recyclable kavadi was featured in StarMetro on Jan 17.
Chowddhri began his journey from the riverside nearby the KTM Batu Caves station with his beautiful hand-made kavadi.
Expressing relief, he said he felt light and happy after carrying the kavadi.
“I had no problems at all, it was a happy journey for me. I had the paal kodam (milk pot) and the vel on my kavadi which I offered to Lord Muruga at the end of the walk,” he added.
Chowddhri said he had planned the Idumban pooja to thank Idumban, Lord Murugan’s follower.
It is believed that Idumban had asked Lord Muruga to bless all those who carried the kavadi.
“The Idumban pooja is also conducted to offer thanks to those who helped me along the way during my journey up the 272 steps in Batu Caves,” he added.
Tourists from Holland Maya Keuning, 22, Anne Fledderus, 21, Jip Bakker, 23, Larissa Klootwijk, 21, said they heard about the festival through their local host and had come to see it for themselves.
The medical students said they were awed by the festival and the vibrant colours.
“We really wanted to try the local cuisine and were hoping to see the kavadis and the bearers with hooks on their back,” said Keuning.
Matthias Bekle, 39, from Germany, said he has been to India twice but that the festival here was different.
Traders at the temple grounds also enjoyed brisk business during the week-long festivities.
KRS Maju sweet shop, decided to sell dodol to attract the crowd.
Owner Ganesh Appoi, 30, said most of their customers opted for the dodol, apart from the conventional Indian sweets.
He said he also liked the new setting for the traders this year.