KAVADI-bearing is common practice for Thaipusam devotees in fulfilling vows, but for some it is the seal that bonds father and son, from one generation to the next.
Known for carrying the iconic poo kavadi (flower kavadi) for the past 35 years at Batu Caves, M. Jegatheswaran, 51, feels immense joy that his only son, Daanishwaran, 17, is also shouldering the sacred responsibility.
“We have been carrying the kavadi for three generations now. My father, Maheswaran Sivaguru carried the kavadi and chariots for 35 years and I have carried the kavadi for the past 33 years.
“I used to decorate temples and the chariots for my father. I love the use of flowers as it is gives beauty to the deities, and so I was inspired to create the flower kavadi,” he said, adding that it was made up of 15 types of flowers which came up to about RM1,000.
Retiring from his kavadi days, the debt account servicer said cost was never an issue as it was sincere service of devotion to God.
“I only use fresh flowers to build the kavadi, so I can only start tying them into garlands two days before Thaipusam, and on Thaipusam day I will mount them onto the kavadi structure. I have to work very fast or else the flowers will wilt.
“It normally takes me 12 hours a day of continuous work for three days.
“Usually, I would take leave from my job and sacrifice my sleep in order to complete the kavadi.
“Sadly, age is catching up and I have to stop bearing the kavadi but I am very happy to see my only son take over.
“It is important to keep our next generation focused on Hindu values and practices, so that they do not go astray. I believe kavadi-bearing is one way to teach our children discipline and strong principles that will guide them through life,” said Jegatheswaran.
Trying on his nearly completed kavadi for the first time, Daanishwaran said bearing a kavadi required one to not only build a solid structure as the base but also build a strong body and mind to carry it.
“I go to the gym four times a week to build muscle strength. My kavadi weighs 30kg and I need to be very strong to carry it up Batu Caves.
“My father taught me how to build the mayil (peacock) kavadi, but more importantly he taught me how to lead a kavadi group and work as a team. Someday when I am ready, I am going to build and carry a flower kavadi just like my father,” he said, adding that this was his fourth year carrying kavadi.
Being the youngest in the his father’s kavadi group, Daanishwaran’s pilgrimage is made memorable with tremendous support from his best friend of 10 years, M. Paventhan.
“Paventhan helped me build my kavadi every year and this year, he will also be carrying one. I will be carrying it on Thaipusam morning and he will be doing so in the evening.
“My schoolmates from SMK Cheras Perdana know that I am carrying the kavadi and some of them are coming to support me,” he said, adding that he was bearing kavadi this year to send a prayer for good grades in SPM.
Made with 50 garlands of flowers and weighing 60kg, the flower kavadi this year will be borne for the first time on the sturdy shoulders of Jegatheswaran’s former schoolmate and kavadi group partner Suresh Singh Rashpal Singh, 48.
Forming the Jega and Suresh Kavadi Group, Suresh explained that familial and comrade kinship was the foundation the group was built upon.
“We started as a group of 15 schoolmates from Vivekananda School. Jega was my senior by three years and he helped me with my first kavadi when I was 16. Since then, we have carried kavadi together every year.
“All works on the 2.74m frame and structure are done by me and the flowers are done by Jega. The longest flower garland on the kavadi is 9.1m long,” he said.
While a group member with the finishing touches on a kavadi, Suresh said the Balasubramaniam Temple had been instrumental in fulfilling their feat, as the temple provided them space to build their kavadi weeks in advance.
“Thaipusam is a family-oriented festival.
“My siblings would support me by fasting with me and carrying the pal kudam.
“One cannot carry the kavadi alone, you need the support of family and friends. And some friends end up becoming your family, as they are the ones staying with you day and night whether it is to help you tighten the screws on the structure or massage your legs.
“For the past 30 years, I have noticed a big group of people that come specifically at the time we are scheduled to appear. I have not seen them at any other time of the year or know them personally, but on Thaipusam day they come to Batu Caves to cheer us on and walk with us.
“It is amazing how people stand by you, rain or shine.”
Jega and Suresh Kavadi Group comprises 24 bearers carrying eight kavadis alternately starting from Thaipusam eve.
Their journey begins from the main road in front of the Umno building, approximately one kilometre from Batu Caves at 8am and 5pm on Thaipusam day.
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