ABOUT 10,000 Hindu worshippers from all over Malaysia thronged the Sannayasi Andavar Temple in Cheng, Malacca, recently as part of a pilgrimage to pay homage to Lord Murugan.
Known as Masi Magam in Tamil, this annual event is among the grandest of Hindu festivals celebrated in Malaysia and is held between February and March.
The two-day festival began with the journey of a silver chariot bearing a gold statue of Lord Murugan adorned with diamonds from one of the countrys oldest Hindu temples, the 18th century Sri Poothya Temple in Jalan Tukang Besi.
The chariot was pulled by two white bulls on its 8km journey to Cheng with a crowd of 1,000 barefoot devotees trailing behind and breaking coconuts.
Many tourists and onlookers took the opportunity to capture the event with their cameras and cell phones. The devotees had their loved ones, including infants, blessed by priests on the chariot.
Some devotees were seen carrying pal kodam (milk containers) on their heads as a sign of thanksgiving.
There were also devotees with their bodies pieced with hooks and carrying kavadis.
According to some worshippers, they did the penance to thank Lord Murugan for granting their wishes such as achieving good health and wealth, good results in examinations, job promotions or having a baby.
Among those doing the penance were R. Kumaran and his wife R. Nirmala, who were seen carrying their six-month old daughter K. Vanisha on a yellow sling cloth supported by sugarcane sticks.
Previously, we had problems in bearing a child, but after many poojas (prayers), we were elated to conceive our first child. A year later, we were delighted to conceive our second, Kumaran said.
The chariot reached the temple at midnight and the statue was placed in the main hall followed by prayers on the second day of the celebration.
Rows of stalls were set up on the roadsides leading to the temple as early as 5am to take advantage of the influx of devotees and tourists.
There were also fortune tellers sitting on mats and offering their service to visitors by reading their palms or having a kili (green parrot) pick a fortune card.
After the prayers, the Lord Murugan statue was placed on the chariot again and taken to its home in Jalan Tukang Besi.