Devotees still give abundantly despite advice to reduce coconut offerings


Children performing the Indian stick dance during the Thaipusam celebrations in Penang

Children performing the Indian stick dance during the Thaipusam celebrations in Penang

TONNES of coconuts were smashed in the heart of George Town as devotees lined the streets to pay homage to Lord Muruga.

On the eve of Thaipusam yesterday, devotees gave both the chariots – silver and golden – a fair share of nuts along the routes.

An advice by a non-governmental organisation to break just one coconut when performing vows had no bearing as devotees stacked up mountains of coconuts for the chariots.

“It’s a personal vow, something I started 40 years ago,” said K. Arunasalam, 65, who broke 101 nuts along Magazine Road.

“I performed my first vow when I was 25 when I prayed for a good job.

“Now, I do it for Lord Muruga to seek good health every year for my family even though my wife has passed away,” he added.

(From top to bottom) Children performing the Indian stick dance during the Thaipusam celebrations in Penang; the Chinese community joining in by offering prayers and coconuts along the chariots’ procession route; volunteers serving free meals to visitors during the celebrations.— Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star
The Chinese community joining in by offering prayers and coconuts along the chariots’ procession route

Thousands of devotees came as early as 6.30am when the golden chariot carrying the ‘vel’ (spear) left the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple at Queen Street.

Meanwhile, the silver chariot only left the Kovil Veedu at Penang Street at almost 8am as its path was blocked by the offerings on the road.

A gridlock occurred in Datuk Keramat Road when the golden chariot was about to reach the Gama Departmental Store at around 1.30pm.

Businessman Chong Soon Wah, 46, said he prepared 1,748 coconuts this year.

“Twenty of my friends and I have been doing this since 2017.

“We would evenly divide the coconuts for both the chariots,” he said.

While most stalls finished giving away their free meals in 45 minutes, one stall near Gama took two hours to distribute their fried noodles.

(From top to bottom) Children performing the Indian stick dance during the Thaipusam celebrations in Penang; the Chinese community joining in by offering prayers and coconuts along the chariots’ procession route; volunteers serving free meals to visitors during the celebrations.— Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star
Volunteers serving free meals to visitors during the celebrations. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/ The Star

The group of about 60 friends had bought 360kg of vermicelli and 83kg of instant noodles to prepare the meals for the public.

Spokesperson P’ng Hang Boon said it was their eighth year doing it.

“It’s our way of giving back to the society,” he said.

While waiting for the chariots along Magazine Road and Datuk Keramat Road, about 20 thaneer panthals (refreshment stalls) also served vegetarian food for devotees.

Volunteers of Ivorycares, a charitable arm of Ivory Properties, distributed food and drinks to about 1,800 devotees.

The volunteers were joined by the group’s independent non-executive director Dr Asairinachan Kunjamboo, relationship director Ang Kung San and Ivory Associates Sdn Bhd director Loh Chin Chuen. Also present was Komtar assemblyman Teh Lai Heng.

Sunway Hotel George Town also served vegetarian food and drinks to about 3,000 devotees near the Sivan Temple in Datuk Keramat Road.

Several tourists also joined in the festive atmosphere at the thaneer panthals.

“So, this is vegetarian food?” asked Holt McDougal from Ireland happily.

Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow, in his Thaipusam message, said the festival was in line with the state’s Penang 2030 Vision to strengthen unity among all the races.

“This celebration is not confined to one community. It’s a celebration of our diverse culture,” he said.

He said the allocation for the Penang Hindu Endowment Board had increased from RM1.1mil to RM1.5mil since 2018.

Tomorrow, the golden chariot will leave the Arulmigu Sri Bala Thandayuthapani Temple in Waterfall Road at 6pm for its return journey while the silver chariot will leave the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple at Waterfall Road at 7pm.