Thousands throng Batu Caves for Thaipusam despite coronavirus outbreak

Thousands visiting Batu Caves to celebrate Thaipusam on Saturday. - YAP CHEE HONG/ The Star.

KUALA LUMPUR: Tens of thousands of devotees have thronged Batu Caves since early Saturday (Feb 8) to celebrate Thaipusam.

They carried brightly-decorated and ornate frames known as kavadi, some decorated with peacock feathers and garlands.

Others carried the paal kudam (milk pot) and made their way from the Sri Subramaniar Temple's entrance to the hilltop temple.

Rituals were performed as acts of penance and to offer thanks to Lord Muruga, as well as to fulfil vows and to repent for past sins.

The kavadi bearers were accompanied by the frantic rhythm of traditional drums.

Thaipusam marks the birth of Lord Muruga, the youngest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Each year, thousands of devotees climb up Batu Caves' 272 steps to commemorate the birthday of Lord Muruga, who was given a "vel" (spear) by the Goddess Parvati to vanquish the evil Soorapadman.

The Hindus celebrate this event in the Tamil month of Thai (January to February).

Despite the recent coronavirus outbreak, there were not many spotted donning face masks except for a small number of locals and tourists.

A majority of the crowd took advantage of the festival falling on a Saturday to visit the temple.

When asked, many were not worried and felt the situation in Malaysia was under control and that it did not warrant the wearing of face masks.

Loh Tee Cheu from Petaling Jaya said he was thrilled to bring his cousin from Australia along to experience this cultural event in Malaysia.

However, being in a crowd was not much of a concern for him.

"The facemask is meant to prevent you from touching your face.

"The right way is to wash our hands more frequently and lessen physical contact with others," he said.

Norwegian Alf Martin Holmesal said he felt alright without a mask despite being in the crowd.

"The news has blown out of proportion, many are anxious due to the proliferation of epidemic information online," he said.

The multimedia company owner, however, said that he would be more cautious and put on protective gear at the airport for his departure as the place has more international visitors coming and going.

However, Taiwanese Kate Lo, 21, who was on her first visit to the Thaipusam festival together with her friends, said they decided to be cautious in public areas.

"It is for our own safety, and we feel safer when we're wearing a mask," she said.

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