Thaipusam celebration a blessing for kavadi designers

21 Jan 2024 09:00pm
Cavadi designer J. Lawrence Dev, 37 painting
Cavadi designer J. Lawrence Dev, 37 painting

IPOH - With Thaipusam falling on Jan 25, these are busy days indeed for kavadi designers J. Lawrence Dev, 37, and his friends, who dub themselves The Kavadi Masters (TKM) Group,

The owner of the Maharaj Event Designer and his six close friends have their hands full trying to complete various kavadi designs according to the demands of the devotees for Thaipusam which is celebrated by Hindus.

Two years after the waning of the Covid-19 pandemic and Thaipusam processions being allowed again, this has proved to be a boon for them, especially after their income took a nosedive when the Movement Control Order (MCO) limited the size of the celebration.

"Although I provide other services, like wedding receptions, nonetheless, the Thaipusam celebration is the one I look forward to the most because making kavadi is a hobby of mine and I can make an additional income by making kavadi for my customers,” he said when met at his workshop here.

The father of two said the TKM Group has been actively making kavadi for the past 20 years, with the participation of nearly 40 people in the group.

He said that each year they would receive 12 to 15 orders and this year, alone, they have received 12 orders, including a chariot.

Lawrence Dev said his customers would usually place their orders in June while the Thaipusam fever will kick in after November because that's when they will begin work earnestly as it takes about two weeks to a month to make a kavadi, depending on the design.

He explained that the minimum price of making a kavadi could be around RM3,000 and it could go up as high as RM30,000, depending on the material used based on the demand of the devotees, such as styrofoam board, metal and wood.

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He said most of the kavadi they produced were from styrofoam board because in Ipoh there was a lot of demand for that material compared to other places.

Lawrence Dev, who began showing an interest in making kavadi when he was 15, said he learned it from a "master kavadi-maker” and that the heaviest kavadi he had ever made weighed 60 kilogrammes (kg).

"My master was very creative and talented as he too learned a lot from abroad. From there, I honed my skills and I have been making them until today,” he said.

But it hasn't been all plain sailing for him in the business as he said that he suffered a huge loss when the country was placed under the MCO several years ago because no processions were permitted then.

Although he did not reveal the amount of losses he incurred, he said they had used all the deposits to purchase the materials needed to complete the kavadi, in addition to not being able to pay his workers.

However, that painful lesson has taught him about the risks of starting a business and that he will never give up making kavadi as long as there is demand.

"Now the situation has returned to normal but is still not stable because the cost of materials has increased and there is a manpower shortage. But I wouldn't say we are struggling, just that the situation is recovering, though not at the previous level (before the MCO),” he said.

Thaipusam is observed annually in the month of 'Thai’ in the Tamil calendar, which usually falls either in January or February to commemorate the act of Goddess Parvati presenting the ‘vel’ (lance) to her son Lord Muruga as an embodiment of her ‘shakti’ or power to vanquish the evil Soorapadman and restore peace and well-being.

In some places, the processions would see devotees carrying kavadi, which is a beautifully and elaborately decorated structure, on their shoulders, often with body piercings attached to them in a painstaking ritual as a mark of sacrifice and paying respect to Lord Muruga.

While preparing for Thaipusam, the devotees also fast and take part in various religious activities to cleanse themselves.

Apart from carrying kavadi, devotees also carry the Paal Kudam, which is a pot containing cow’s milk as an offering to Lord Muruga. - BERNAMA