THOUSANDS of devotees took part in colourful and vibrant processions during the Thaipusam celebration in Ipoh.
Carrying kavadis of various colours, shapes and sizes, many of these devotees walked about 10km from Jelapang to Buntong and to the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunung Cheroh on a bright Sunday morning.
Chants of “Vel vel” and the beats from the dhol drums were heard far and wide as the devotees made their way to the temple.
Many had paid a visit to the temple to fulfil their vows to Lord Muruga for answering their prayers.
Wholesale market helper P. Gunnaseelan, 19, who was carrying a kavadi, said he was thankful for a healthy life as he made his way to the temple.
“I came with my siblings and relatives. We made the kavadi ourselves.
“Apart from being grateful for my health, I hope I can find a nice girl to marry,” he said.
When asked whether there was a girl he had in mind, Gunnaseelan said he was still searching for “the one”.
His uncle, S. Mariadass, 55, also said he hoped his nephew can find the girl of his dreams.
“He is an adult now. I think he can find a good girl for himself,” he said with a smile.
“All 20 family members here today also pray for good health,” he added.
Businessman N. Navarasoo, 45, and his 10-year-old nephew S.S.G. Rohann Shree were among the kavadi-bearers seen walking barefooted towards the temple as well.
Navarasoo’s wife, S. Shanthi, 40, said both were doing it for the first time.
“Rohann Shree is doing it to pay respect to the deity for good health.
“He had been having nonstop fever for a year and was admitted to a hospital last year,” Shanthi said.
“He is getting better now so he vows to carry the kavadi for three years,” she added.
Shanthi said her husband prays for good health and prosperity for the family.
Witnessing the festivities for the first time was Italian Alice Meletti, 29, and her friends.
“It’s exciting to see the Indian community still observing their culture.
“It’s something new to me as I’ve never seen such celebrations before,” said the non-governmental organisation worker.
“We travelled from Kuala Lumpur because Batu Caves was very crowded,” she added.
Meletti said she was fascinated by the devotion shown.
“The huge kavadis they are carrying and the piercings on their bodies show their level of devotion,” she said.
Project manager George Zimmermann, 53, from Switzerland, was also intrigued by the festivities.
Zimmermann, who came to Malaysia last August for work, said he found out about the celebration from his Indian colleagues.
“I’ve never seen such a celebration before so it was pretty amazing.
“The highlights were definitely the kavadis and the piercings on the devotees’ bodies,” he said.
Apart from the festivities at the temple, there were also thaner panthals (refreshment stalls) set up along Jalan Raja Musa Aziz, offering free food and drinks to devotees.
Tents selling food, drinks, clothes, toys and other accessories were nearby as well.
Perak police chief Senior Deputy Commissioner Datuk Osman Salleh, who visited the state police contingent’s thanner panthal near the temple, said sufficient police personnel have been deployed to ensure the safety of the people during the celebration.
“We have policemen on full alert at all places.
“With Islamic State (IS) being a threat now, the police will continue working to ensure we can deter these threats,” he said.
“There are no specific targeted areas in the state but we will ensure all places are secured,” he said, adding that the Royal Malaysian Army were also roped in to assist the police.
SDC Osman also said there were no traffic issues in the state.
“Everything is under control,” he said.
On Jalan Sultan Idris Shah, Ipoh City Watch president Prof Dr Richard Ng said they had set up a stall to provide meals and drinks to devotees.
“We gave out all 400 packs of vegetarian food within 30 minutes.
“Apart from that, we put up placards on the road to remind people of their responsibility to keep the city clean,” he said.
“We did not use polystyrene containers but reusable plastic ones and we hope other stall operators can also do the same to keep the environment clean in the future,” he added.