SINGAPORE, Jan 7 (The Straits Times/ANN): Come Feb 5, the sound of music will fill the 3.2km stretch between Serangoon Road and Tank Road as Hindu devotees walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in the Thaipusam foot procession.
The annual religious festival saw fewer participants in the last two years amid more muted celebrations as the authorities took steps to minimise the risk of Covid-19.
The customary foot procession was scrapped, and the use of kavadis – wooden or metal structures carrying milk offerings – and ceremonial piercings was disallowed.
About 30,000 people are expected to be part of this year’s procession, with a third carrying milk pot offerings called paal kudam. Some 200 devotees will be carrying kavadis.
At a press conference on Friday, Hindu Endowments Board chief executive T. Raja Segar welcomed the lifting of restrictions on Thaipusam, noting that devotees have been waiting to celebrate the festival as they had always done.
“You can say that we are starting with a big bang after Covid-19, and that is great,” he said, adding that the festival organisers drew lessons from the pandemic in their planning.
Devotees can now choose to prepare their own offerings of paal kudam or pick up those prepared by the Tank Road temple, instead of being allowed to do only the latter.
During the pandemic, the festival centred on Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, with devotees needing to book slots for the time they could enter the temple to prevent overcrowding, Mr Raja said.
“Looking at the benefits of the system, we are continuing with it. Whatever we learn this year, we will make use of it to make next year’s Thaipusam even better.”
Besides the number of devotees being regulated at the temple in the past two years, some Thaipusam practices were curtailed.
Aside from the foot procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to Tank Road being scrapped, groups carrying musical instruments or any form of amplification device were not allowed to enter the temple.
The elderly, the young and those with physical challenges were also encouraged to pray at home and join the live stream for the Thaipusam prayer session. The live streaming will continue in 2023, but centre on key moments, said Mr Ramasamy Meiyappan, deputy president of Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong will join in the festivities on Feb 5. The foot procession will set off the night before, at 11:30pm.
To book slots for paal kudam offerings, devotees can visit www.thaipusam.sg. The sale of tickets for Thaipusam-related activities will close on Feb 3 at 8.30pm.
Meanwhile, those planning to carry a paal kavadi will have to purchase tickets at either Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple or Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
Tickets for the chariot and spike kavadis, however, will be sold only at the Serangoon Road temple. - The Straits Times/ANN