Tiny brothers among the faithful


GEORGE TOWN: Five-year-old K. Ventrivel and his three-year-old brother K. Kathirvell both stood tall and proud when they each carried a kavadi for Thaipusam as a show of devotion.

Despite being physically small, the duo made their way from Muthu Mariamman Temple in Lorong Kulit to Arulmigu Sri Bala Thandayuthapani Waterfall Hilltop Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga yesterday.

Their mother M. Kugeneswari, 37, said both boys had often been falling sick and after praying for good health, they wanted to fulfil their vows.

“They were frequently falling sick with fever and flu.

“One day, they saw other devotees bearing the kavadi and asked me about it and I explained.

“They then prayed to Lord Murugan for better health and shortly after that, the frequent bouts of illness stopped.

“In return, they expressed their desire to fulfil their vows so here we are,” she said yesterday.

Sacred ceremony: Ventrivel and Kathirvell carrying a kavadi during the celebration along Jalan Kebun Bunga in George Town. (Inset) Prof Frestad (left) posing for a picture with his students. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The StarSacred ceremony: Ventrivel and Kathirvell carrying a kavadi during the celebration along Jalan Kebun Bunga in George Town. (Inset) Prof Frestad (left) posing for a picture with his students. — ZHAFARAN NASIB/The Star

According to Kugeneswari, it was the first time the family was carrying a kavadi.

“In the past, we only participated by carrying milk,” she said.

They were among other kavadi bearers who either carried kavadis or pierced their body for various reasons, such as to fulfil a vow, to seek blessings or ask for forgiveness.

Another kavadi bearer, 45-year-old G. Kalidhas, who has been bearing the kavadi for the past 28 years, pierced his body with 108 seashells to reflect on his good thoughts.

“The number 108 units represent the distance between our body and the god within us.

“As shells are able to echo sounds, they will reflect all my thoughts and goodwill from the heart,” he said.

Kalidhas, with his body covered in shells, also carried nine large pots each containing different offerings to Lord Murugan.

Apart from thousands of devotees who turned up, a group of university students from Norway did so too.

Some 30 of them from University of Agder came to witness the piercing and bearing of kavadis to the temples.

Their professor, Trond Frestad from the university’s Religion and Educational Science Faculty, said the students visited Penang for Thaipusam.

“We are here for a month in Malaysia and made the trip to Penang to specifically witness Thaipusam.

“We will be travelling all over Asia to study different religions and cultures,” he said.

Many pilgrims carried milk pots on their heads or shoulders, while some had their shaven heads covered in yellow paste.

Under the scorching sun and humid afternoon, numerous stalls lined along the road offering cold drinks and moru, a traditional blend of yogurt, water, salt and spices.

At the foot of Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple, the droves of devotees slowly arrived to scale 513 steps up the hill to the temple’s main complex to pay homage to Lord Murugan.

Chants of “Vel vel” and the beats of dhol drums were heard far and wide as the devotees made their way to the temple.

Yesterday, the golden and silver chariots for Thaipusam both arrived after a long procession across the city.

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