KUALA LUMPUR: The Thaipusam celebrations got off to an early start at Batu Caves here with Hindu devotees carrying kavadis four days ahead of the big day due to the long stretch of public holidays this week.
Some said they decided to fulfil their vows early, as they feared a bigger crowd this year because of the holidays.
An estimated 1.5 million people will converge at the Sri Subramaniar Swami Temple in Batu Caves for the three-day Thaipusam festival from Feb 4 with the bulk of the crowd set to arrive on Thursday.
R. Thiligan, 19, who is awaiting his Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia results, was among the devotees present to make arrangements for his kavadi which he plans to carry on Wednesday.
“Basically, I made a vow which I have to fulfil and that is why I will be carrying the kavadi. It will be my second time.''
Thiligan will be joined by his brother, R. Darshan, 16, who will carry the kavadi for the first time and participate in an 11km chariot procession from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee to Batu Caves.
“I began my preparations at the start of the year, which included being a vegetarian for the past month, so hopefully, nothing will go wrong,” Darshan said.
The brothers will have their tongues pierced for the first time, but both are confident they are suitably prepared for the ceremony.
M. Selvakumar, 16, has been preparing for Thaipusam over the past two months.
“Thaipusam to me is more important than Deepavali as it will mark the fulfilment of my vows to Lord Muruga,” he said.
Although many devotees are fulfilling their vows one to three days before Thaipusam, most will be in Batu Caves to attend prayers on Thursday.
Devotees can also contribute to the festival by donating blood.
A. Ganesh of the Sathya Sai Council of Malaysia was present to prepare a blood donation drive on Wednesday and Thursday.
“We are working towards getting more than 200 people to donate blood,” he said.
With the help of Kuala Lumpur Hospital, the team will set up more than 20 beds under a bridge at the entrance to the caves.