GEORGE TOWN: The Thaipusam celebration here will witness a show of unity with the two chariots arriving by 1am on Feb 8 at the two main temples that observe the festival.This consensus came about following complaints by devotees for the past three years that the silver chariot and the golden chariot would arrive late at the separate temples.
Since 2017, the Thaipusam procession here involved two chariots after the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) decided to roll out the golden chariot, breaking a 164-year tradition of the silver chariot as the only one for the occasion.
This year, both the golden and silver chariots are scheduled to start their journey about 30 minutes apart.
The silver chariot will arrive at the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga while the golden chariot will be at the Arulmigu Sree Balathandayuthapani Waterfall Hilltop Temple.
Penang Nattukottai Chettiar Temple Thaipusam 2020 organising committee chairman C. Veerappan said the temple and the PHEB had agreed to work together for both chariots to have a smooth passage on Thaipusam eve on Feb 7.
“We held a meeting in October last year. We have ironed out certain issues and hope for a smooth journey this time around, ” Veerappan told reporters recently.
Last year, the silver chariot began its journey from the Kovil Veedu in Penang Street at 7am on Thaipusam eve and reached the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple at 4am on Thaipusam day.
The golden chariot, on the other hand, left at 6.15am from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street and arrived at the Waterfall Hilltop Temple close to 4am.
In January last year, PHEB chairman Dr P. Ramasamy traded barbs with Nattukotai Chettiar Temple’s managing trustee Dr A. Narayanan over the procession.
Dr Ramasamy claimed that the Chettiars had deliberately delayed the departure of the silver chariot from Kovil Veedu.
On his part, Dr Narayanan said the golden chariot, which was pulled by devotees, took long breaks which resulted in a gridlock on the streets. The silver chariot is pulled by bulls.
Dr Ramasamy, when contacted, said the relationship between the board and the Chettiar temple had improved and they were looking forward to a united Thaipusam celebration this year.
“We have no problems working with the Chettiars as the unity would benefit devotees and visitors attending the festival, ” he said.
The 126th Thaipusam festival coincidentally falls on the same day as Chap Goh Meh, the 15th day of the lunar calendar, which is the end of the new year celebrations.