Celebration in Penang makes a grand comeback

GEORGE TOWN: The Thaipusam celebration has made a grand comeback here with thousands of devotees converging along the streets to pay homage to Lord Murugan, the Hindu God of Beauty and War.

As the two chariots slowly inched their way along the routes yesterday, tourists and shutterbugs were busy snapping pictures of the colourful processions and thousands of coconuts being smashed along the way, while the presence of policemen ensured everything went on smoothly.

The golden chariot took off at about 6.30am from Sri Maha Mariammam Temple in Lebuh Queen before making its way to the Arulmigu Sree Balathandayuthapani Waterfall Hilltop Temple.

At about 7.50am, the silver chariot departed from the Nagarathar Kovil Veedu Temple in Lebuh Penang, heading over to the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple on Jalan Kebun Bunga.

The silver chariot ferried the statue of Lord Murugan while the golden chariot carried his vel (spear).

Despite a slight delay, the processions went on without any untoward incidents, with both chariots travelling along Lebuh Chulia, Lebuh Victoria, Jalan Dr Lim Chwee Leong, Jalan CY Choy, Jalan Magazine, Jalan Datuk Keramat, Jalan Utama and ending at Jalan Kebun Bunga.

Throughout the journey, devotees dressed in vibrant colours gave offerings to the handlers to be placed on top of the chariots whenever they stopped.

There were shouts of “Vel, vel, vetri (victorious)” or “Vel, vel Muruga (Glory unto Muruga)” echoing loudly.

At some sections, traditional drummers played the urumi melam (hourglass-shaped drums), thavil (barrel-shaped drums), jaalra (cymbals) and thappu (round drums) to accompany devotees as they fulfilled their vows.

Since 2017, the festival in Penang has featured two chariots instead of one silver chariot, breaking a 164-year tradition.

On the return journey tomorrow, the golden chariot will leave the Arulmigu Sree Balathandayuthapani Waterfall Hilltop Temple at 6pm, while the silver chariot is expected to leave the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple an hour later.

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