CHANTS of “Vel! Vel!” filled the air as thousands of devotees flocked to the hilltop temple in Penang to fulfil their vows and offer thanksgiving prayers to Lord Muruga.
Despite the hot weather since morning, the kavadi bearers and those carrying milk pots started their journey before sunrise, walking towards the Arulmigu Balathanda-yuthapani hilltop temple on Water-fall Road — the annual gathering place for Thaipusam.
The atmosphere at the sacred celebration was indeed carnival-like with speakers along the road playing songs praising Lord Muruga.
The streets were also lined with 133 thaneer panthal (refreshment stalls) which offered drinks and food to devotees.
Tourists were also busy taking pictures of devotees carrying ka-vadi.
Temple chairman P. Kuvenaraju said Thaipusam is celebrated during the full moon in the month of ‘Thai’ in the Tamil Calendar, which usually falls between January and early February.
“Legend has it that Thaipusam began when the goddess Parvathi, Lord Muruga’s mother, gave him a bow and arrow to destroy an evil force known as Soorapadman.
“His success in restoring prosperity and the well-being of the people led Hindus to celebrate and observe Thaipusam,” he said yesterday.
One of the devotees R. Thanasilan, 39, was spotted with his wife carrying their one-year-old baby using sugarcane stalks.
The couple who had migrated to Perth six years ago were fulfilling their vows to Lord Muruga for granting them a second child.
“We were longing for this child,” said Thanasilan, a chef.
Student Kailarsh Shan Kar, 16, who was seen carrying a wooden kavadi, thanked Lord Muruga for blessing him with straight As in PMR last year.
For insurance agent P.T. Kautha-man, 52, who hails from Johor Baru, Thaipusam Day also marked his 25th wedding anniversary.
“This is our first visit to Penang during Thaipusam as we think that our marriage has been blessed by the Lord,” he enthused.
The celebration was interesting for Norwegian Helen Egeberg, 23, who said she was impressed by the carnival-like event, which was an eye-opener for her.
“It feels good to be part of the event. I just can’t stop taking photos,” added the first-time visitor to Penang.
The three-day Thaipusam festival will end with the silver chariot procession making its return journey from Waterfall Road at 6.30pm today.
The return route covers Jalan Kebun Bunga, Gottlieb Road, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Cantonment Road, Macalister Road, Anson Road, Burmah Road, Transfer Road, Sri Bahari Road, Campbell Street, Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Chulia Street, Queen Street, Market Street, China Street, Beach Street and Penang Street.