Hindu devotees seek blessings at Penang Thaipusam

GEORGE TOWN: A bare-footed husband-and-wife team joined a large group of devotees in pulling the multi-tonne golden chariot during the Thaipusam celebration.

G. Balakumaran, 43, and his wife R. Malani, 38, said it was their third year doing it as they hoped to be blessed with a child.

“We have been married for seven years and we pray that by fulfilling our vows, we will be able to conceive,” said Balakumaran, a tour guide.

Though the distance is not daunting, the 1.6-tonne golden chariot bearing the consecrated spear of the god Shiva – known as the Vel – took devotees about 20 hours.

Ahead of the golden chariot, a 37-tonne tanker carrying freshwater regularly wet the road to cool the asphalt and make it more bearable for the chariot pullers.

Penang Thaipusam has seen two chariots during the procession since 2017 when the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) decided to roll out the golden chariot, breaking a 164-year tradition of the silver chariot being the only chariot during the festival.

The golden chariot began its procession from the Maha Sri Mariamman Temple in Queen Street at 6am before heading to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple in Waterfall Road.

It was pulled by about 30 devotees who swarmed the temple as early as 4.30am.

They had waited patiently for the rituals to be completed before the Vel was lifted on top of the chariot.

The golden chariot reached Magazine Road at around 12.30pm where thousands of coconuts were smashed by devotees who thronged the 20 odd thaneer panthals (refreshment stalls) serving vegetarian food and drinks along the road.

The silver chariot moved around 8am due to the large number of offerings at the Kovil Veedu in Penang Street.

It was then pulled by two bulls with about hundreds of devotees pushing the chariot from the back soon after the deity Lord Muruga was placed on the chariot.

Devotee Krishnakumary Raghavan, 55, from Skudai, Johor, came in a bus with about 25 relatives for the Thaipusam celebration.

“We have been doing it for the last six years.

“I have been to Batu Caves but the atmosphere is totally different

“Here, it is a blend of tradition and carnival like celebration,” said the private school teacher.

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