PETALING JAYA: With standard operating procedure (SOP) in place, devotees once again thronged Batu Caves in a show of religious devotion despite a scaled-down Thaipusam celebration.
Clad in saffron and yellow traditional outfits, devotees were seen carrying out their prayers while practising physical distancing and wearing face masks.
Shouts of “Vel vel vetri” (victorious) were also heard from devotees carrying the paal kodam (milk pots) up the 272 colourful steps of the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple.
As the day went on, long lines of devotees began to grow from the entrance of the temple to the foot of the stairs.
Police and staff members were on duty to oversee and ensure SOP compliance.
No stalls were visible as per the SOP requirement set by the National Security Council.
Present at the celebrations were MIC deputy president Datuk Seri M. Saravanan and National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique, with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak also paying a visit later on.
Devotees expressed how thankful and relieved they were to have the opportunity to celebrate Thaipusam at Batu Caves.
“We weren’t able to make it here last year due to the lockdown, so being able to celebrate and carry a kavadi again makes me very happy.
“It’s also exciting to experience the sights and sounds of Thaipusam,” said devotee Francis Arputham, 35, who was there with his wife.
Devotee A. Vimal, 25, said she was looking forward to a livelier celebration next year.
Another devotee P. Yuvaraj, 38, expressed his gratitude to the authorities for the way the Thaipusam celebrations were organised this year.
“Despite a smaller crowd, it does not make the celebration any less special,” he said.
Student R. Navyinthra Seelan, 24, said that to help keep his family safe during the Covid-19 pandemic, he had volunteered to represent them at this year’s prayers.
“Since older people are at higher risk, my parents decided to stay at home,” added Navyinthra, who arrived at Batu Caves at 6am with his cousin and a friend.
Malaysians of different races along with tourists also took the opportunity to witness the Thaipusam celebrations this year.
Clad in a red saree, Amira from Ampang decided to spend her day off at the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple with her husband.
The 23-year old said she wanted to experience the culture firsthand.
Friends Noor Azizah, 24, and Noor Amirah, 30, who drove from Johor Baru, said they came to witness the celebrations.
“It’s very colourful and rich in culture,” Noor Azizah said.
International visitors also did not miss the chance to be part of the festival.
Friends Felicity Newland, 27, and Sarah Sousa, 32, from the United Kingdom and Canada respectively, said they were amazed by the vibrant and colourful festival.
Clare McCusker, 33, who was last here in 2019, said despite the SOP, the celebrations were still a joy to see.
“Although it’s not as grand as before, it’s still amazing to see the people coming together to celebrate,” said the international school teacher.Thaipusam is celebrated by Hindus during the 10th month of the Tamil calendar, which is also known as “Thai”.
It is to commemorate Lord Murugan, who received the sacred spear from his mother Goddess Parvati to eliminate the demon Soorapadman and restore the people’s prosperity and well-being.