KUALA LUMPUR: The elephants made this year’s annual Lord Muruga chariot procession from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple here to Batu Caves unique and meaningful.
The seven elephants, paced 500m apart, walked over the 14km from Jalan Tun H S Lee accompanied by hundreds of thousands of young and old devotees, including Chinese and foreigners.
Over the 10-hour procession starting at 4am, the elephants became an attraction with the excited children who tried to touch them.
The organisers decided for the first time to include the elephants as they represent the protector and are supposed to clear obstacles in one’s life in Hindu culture.
It was a much more organised festival this year compared with previous years as certain guidelines were followed to ensure that Thaipusam was a spiritual and religious event.
Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam chairman R. Nadarajah said the Federal Reserve Unit’s played a large part in maintaining crowd control at Batu Caves.
“We estimate there are about 1.5 million people of different races this year.
“This year there are more public facilities such toilets and washrooms. Some of the shops have been shifted to create more space for the devotees carrying kavadis,” he said.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam president A. Vaithilingam said a set of guidelines to ensure a trouble-free celebration helped in disciplining the crowd.
“We want to ensure that Thaipusam is celebrated in a spiritual and religious manner and not turned into a carnival.
“The guidelines were drawn up after studying numerous complaints received from people throughout the country.
“Among the main complaints were cleanliness, toilet facilities and allocation of stalls for small businesses, the high charges for performing archanai (prayers) and carrying paal kudam (milk pot) and improper method of carrying the kavadi.
“The Batu Caves Temple management promised to implement the guidelines in stages over the next few years,” he said.
Devotees seemed to adhere to the guidelines as yesterday morning, there were no kavadi bearers pulling chariots with hooks attached to their bodies, smoking cigars or walking on knives.
There were also no big bongo drums, derogatory street dancing or disco songs accompanying the kavadi procession.
Those selling compact discs, videotapes and cassettes of religious songs had also toned down the volumes.
MIC president Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu is expected to deliver his annual speech at the opening ceremony at 2pm today.