GEORGE TOWN: A large number of devotees will take turns to pull the golden chariot during the Thaipusam celebration which is expected to attract 1.5 million visitors.
Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) chairman Dr P. Ramasamy said the devotees would be aided with a pushback tug during the procession from the Maha Sri Mariamman Temple in Queen Street to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple in Waterfall Road on Sunday.
He said the procession would begin at 6am.
“The golden chariot will be pulled by the devotees with the aid of a pushback tug.
“On its return journey on Jan 22, instead of passing by Campbell Street, the procession will pass through Chulia Street and Little India as there are more tourists,” he said during a press conference at Komtar on Tuesday.
This year, PHEB is using a new RM3mil two-tonne golden chariot which stands at 6.4m tall and 5m wide.
The chariot will carry the “Vel” (spear) during its maiden journey, while the old one will now be stationed at the temple.
Penang Thaipusam has seen two chariots during the procession since 2017 when PHEB decided to roll out the golden chariot, breaking a 164-year tradition of the silver chariot as the only chariot during the festival.
Both the golden and silver chariots are set to start their journey about 60 minutes apart.
Owned by the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga, the silver chariot, which is 7.3m tall and carries the statue of Lord Muruga, will begin its journey from the Kovil Veedu in Penang Street at 7am on Sunday.
The temple’s managing trustee Dr A. Narayanan hopes the golden chariot, which will start its journey an hour earlier, will maintain its pace to avoid delays as experienced in past years.
“We hope they will maintain their speed and keep a clear distance between their chariot and ours,” he told reporters during a press conference at the Kovil Veedu on Tuesday.
Narayanan also urged residents along Campbell Street to keep the road clear between 1am to 4am on Jan 22 as the chariot and a large crowd will be passing by on its return journey.
The silver chariot from India has been in use since 1894.
Narayanan said before that, a wooden chariot was used for 35 years.
“The chariot has been traditionally drawn by bulls, and they are like ‘mothers’ to us.
“We have a few bulls and they will take turns to pull the chariot in pairs to prevent exhaustion,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Consumers Association of Penang has urged all Hindu temples to avoid using disposable plastic and polystyrene tableware during Thaipusam.
“At the end of the festival, mounds of non-biodegradable trash will litter several sites in the country.
“Hopefully, temples can ensure that shops and stall vendors refrain from serving food in polystyrene containers as devotees should not be exposed to harmful chemicals,” its education officer N.V. Subbarow said.
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