Thaipusam: A tapestry of history, culture, and piercing devotion

Decoding the symbols of Thaipusam in Malaysia

25 Jan 2024 07:01am
Thaipusam unites Malaysia in a symphony of colour and devotion - Photo by Kousalya Selvam
Thaipusam unites Malaysia in a symphony of colour and devotion - Photo by Kousalya Selvam

SHAH ALAM - Thaipusam is a vibrant and significant Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community, particularly in South India in Tamil Nadu, Malaysia, Singapore, and other parts of the world with a sizable Tamil population.

The name Thaipusam comes from the combination of the Tamil word 'Thai', which is the tenth month in the Tamil calendar, and 'Pusam' which is a star in Hindu astrology.

The festival is celebrated during the full moon in the Tamil month of 'Thai', which usually falls in January or February, and it's a day of celebration for the God of War, Lord Murugan, after his vanquishing against the evil demon according to Hindu scriptures.

Significance of Thaipusam

Thaipusam commemorates the day when Goddess Parvati gifted Lord Murugan a vel (spear) to vanquish the demon Soorapadman.

Devotees celebrate Thaipusam to express their gratitude to Lord Murugan for his divine protection and blessings.

The festival is marked by elaborate processions and religious ceremonies by devotees seeking the deity's grace.

Why devotees wear yellow attire on Thaipusam?

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Yellow is Lord Murugan's favorite colour, and that's why the statue in Batu Caves is yellow gold.

Devotees wear yellow and saffron robes during Thaipusam as it is associated with new beginnings, peace, and happiness, and many choose to smear their bodies with turmeric, giving their skin a yellow tint.

Yellow holds immense significance in Thaipusam celebrations, symbolising purity and devotion.

This practice is a form of purification and a demonstration of the devotee's commitment to self-discipline and spiritual cleansing.

Carrying Paal Kuddam

The paal kuddam, or milk pot, is a common feature of Thaipusam celebrations.

Devotees carry pots filled with milk as an offering to Lord Murugan.

The act of carrying the paal kuddam represents the devotee's willingness to make sacrifices for the divine and symbolises the purity of the offering.

Colourful Kavadi

One of the most visually striking aspects of Thaipusam is the carrying of the kavadi.

A kavadi is a large, ornate structure decorated with flowers, peacock feathers, and other religious symbols, which devotees carry on their shoulders as a form of penance and devotion.

The kavadi is a physical burden that represents the challenges and obstacles faced in life.

Devotees often pierce their bodies with small hooks and skewers as a way of further demonstrating their dedication and endurance during the procession.

Why Tamilians celebrate Thaipusam?

Thaipusam is a festival that blends spirituality, devotion, and communal celebration in a unique and profound way.

The rituals, such as dressing in yellow, carrying paal kuddam, and the striking spectacle of devotees carrying kavadis, reflect the deep connection between the individual and the divine.

Thaipusam is a powerful reminder of the importance of self-sacrifice, discipline, and devotion in pursuing spiritual growth and enlightenment.

The festival not only brings together communities in joyous celebration but also serves as a source of inspiration for individuals seeking a higher spiritual connection.

Malaysians can observe Thaipusam in the three most famous temples in Malaysia: Batu Caves Murugan Temple, Penang Thaneermalai Murugan Temple, and Ipoh Kallumalai Murugan Temple.