THE RM3mil golden chariot successfully completed its first trial run for Thaipusam in about two hours through George Town in the presence of a large throng of devotees seeing it for the first time.
More than 30 devotees pulled the 1.6-tonne chariot for 3km, rolling along rubberised golden wheels, after a delay of two hours.
On Thaipusam Eve next Wednesday, this chariot will carry the Vel of Lord Muruga (heavenly spear), a 0.9m-long consecrated artefact made of gold and recently completed by goldsmiths in India.
For the trial run at about noon yesterday, the chariot carried a golden pot of holy water instead.
Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple chairman R. Subramaniam said the delay was caused by prayers and the task of loading the golden chariot onto a trailer lorry at the hill.
“We needed more time to secure the chariot to the lorry so that no untoward incidents would happen.
“Now, it is ready for its maiden procession,” he said.
The chariot is operated by the state government’s Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) and it is widely expected to ‘compete’ for attention with the traditional silver chariot operated by the Nattukotai Chettiars for the last 126 years.
While the golden chariot will bear the Vel, the silver chariot will continue to carry an 1854 consecrated statue of Lord Muruga.
Devotees annually offer the silver chariot trays laden with money, gold jewellery, silk, fruits and flowers — collected by the Chettiars.
This is the first time two chariots are making a procession for Thaipusam in Penang.
PHEB chairman Dr P. Ramasamy, who also pulled the chariot, said the crowd proved public support.
“It is a chariot for all and everyone is eager to witness its procession,” Dr Ramasamy, who is also Deputy Chief Minister II said.
The chariot went along Jalan Kebun Bunga, Lorong Air Terjun, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Macalister, Jalan Residensi and Jalan Utama before returning to the temple.
On Wednesday, it will leave Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street at 5am, 90 minutes earlier than the silver chariot which will depart from the Chettiar-owned Kovil Veedu building in Penang Street at 6.30am.