Every year during the Thaipusam festival, the Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple at Batu Caves would be flooded in a sea of people comprising Hindu devotees from all over the country and tourists, both local and foreign.
Today, however, the crowds were absent from the temple, which was tightly guarded by the police, as Hindu temples nationwide adhered to the standard operating procedure (SOP) under the Movement Control Order (MCO).
Nevertheless, this year’s Thaipusam is just as significant and meaningful as Hindus marked the occasion with prayers at home, particularly for the country to be free of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Private sector employee, N.Kumari, 35, shared with Bernama that she and her entire family cleansed themselves with tumeric powder before praying at home and conveying Thaipusam greetings to family and friends through social media platforms.
“Many of us are praying for the pandemic to end today. Every Thaipusam, my entire family would purify ourselves with tumeric at home before going to the Batu Caves temple to watch the kavadi procession and the festivities there,” she said.
Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, in a posting on his Facebook account today, wished Hindus a ‘Safe and Happy Thaipusam’.
He also reminded all to practise physical distancing of at least one metre, to wash their hands regularly and wear face masks properly, covering the nose, mouth and chin.
Thaipusam is celebrated by Hindus all over the world during the month of ‘Thai’, the 10th month of the Tamil calendar commemorating deity Lord Murugan receiving the vel, a sacred spear, from his mother Pravati to defeat the evil Soorapadman, and restore peace and prosperity to mankind.
The statue of Lord Murugan was brought from the Jalan Bandar temple to Kuil Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple at Batu Caves yesterday, without the usual procession in order to abide by the SOP set by the government.
The Thaipusam chariot was accompanied by not more than 10 people but without any accompanying music, and it was not allowed to make stops along the journey to Batu Caves.
Checks by Bernama at the Batu Caves temple today showed that several individuals turned up at the temple but left after being advised by policemen stationed there.
In addition, the Sri Maha Mariamman temple management here also put up notices informing the public regarding its closure, and Jalan Tun H S Lee, which was usually filled with throngs of Hindu devotees making their way to temple, was relatively quiet today.
In NEGERI SEMBILAN, B. Suhashini, 27, and her family performed prayers and smashed coconuts at their home in Taman Putra, Batu Kikir, Jempol, before having a meal together with relatives.
“I am fulfilling my vows this year as a sign of gratitude by shaving the head of my 15-month-old son. Usually it would be conducted at Batu Caves but because of the MCO, the ceremony is done at home. The shaven hair will be kept at home for the time being and will be taken to Batu Caves when there are no longer restrictions on interstate travel,” she said.
In PERAK, M. Ramachandran, 45, marked the festival with prayers at his house in Taman Silibin Ria, Ipoh as early as 6.45 am with his wife and four children.
The president of Sri Subramaniar temple in Gunung Cheroh, Ipoh, M. Viveganantha, said this was the second time in the history of the century-old temple that Thaipusam celebrations were not conducted there, with the first being after the declaration of Emergency on May 16, 1969.
In SELANGOR, G. Parumal, 39, and his family, who run a business making and renting kavadis, said although there were no prayers at temples, his entire family is grateful for being able to celebrate Thaipusam together at home. He hoped that the COVID-19 pandemic will end soon.
He said this was the first time he was unable to sell or rent kavadis to Hindu devotees since he started the business some 20 years ago.
In KEDAH, checks by Bernama found that the gates of the Sri Subramaniya Swami Devasthanam temple in Sungai Petani were closed, with several People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) personnel stationed at the entrance.
According to a temple committee member, K. Anbarasan, devotees are not allowed to pray at the temple for three days beginning yesterday, and only committee members are permitted to pray today with a limit of five people at any one time.
In MELAKA, the Sri Subramaniar Devasthanam temple management in Batu Berendam took the initiative of conducting a live Thaipusam prayer ceremony on Facebook. The temple president, V. Manokaran, said the public have sent flowers and milk to the temple gates to fulfill their vows.
In PENANG, Jalan Air Terjun, which was usually crowded every Thaipusam, was completely quiet and empty today.
A check by Bernama found that a number of devotees were spotted at the Penang Thanneermalai Shree Balathandayuthapani Temple or Penang Hilltop Temple located along the road.
They were seen performing their prayers outside the temple gates before leaving as the temple was closed.
A few notices and banners were hung outside the temple, indicating that there would be no Thaipusam activities, in line with the MCO.
Source: BERNAMA News Agency