Thaipusam is an important festival dedicated to Lord Murugan or Karttikeya. Thaipusam 2017 falls on THURSDAY, the 09th feb 2017. Let us learn more about this important Hindu festival and its significance.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai [January/February]. It is celebrated not only in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where the Tamil community is a minority, such as Singapore and Malaysia.
The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel [spear] so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan’s birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month [May/June], is Murugan’s birthday.
Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and it is belived that Lord Murugan killed the Tarakasuran during the Pusam star of the month Thai. Hence it led to the celebration of Thai Pusam.
This festival is celebrated with much fervor everywhere in Tamilnadu. People walk in groups the land to Palani with Kavadis to get the darshan of Lord Murugan during Thai pusam.
The curse imparted on Lord Murugan:
Lord Shiva was providing an important mantra to Parvati. Lord Murugan eavesdropped this. When mother Parvati became aware of this, she cursed Lord Murugan. Lord Murugan, realizing his guilt prayed for apology. Parvati, pleased by this, appeared with Shiva before Lord Murugan and forgave him. The day that Parvati appeared before Murugan is celebrated as Thai Pusam.
The Cosmic Dance
Another legend is that Shiva and Parvathi were involved on a cosmic dance during this period, which led to the celebration of Thai Pusam.
The Kaveri Legend
Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee’s son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him
Theppam or the Float Festival is celebrated with much zeal and enthusiasm in all the Murugan Temples all over the world.
This annual Float Festival called Theppam during Thai Poosam, in the Kapaleeshwarar tank is held normally for three days starting from Thai PoosamThe East Mada Street throngs with devotees on the three days beginning from Thai poosam.
In Haripad Subramayaswami Temple, Alapuzha, Kerala, is famous for Kavadiyattom. Almost 5000 kavadis coming to the temple from many temples in the locality.
In Karamamana, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India, Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Satyavageeswara temple. The utsava moorthy is taken in procession on a vahanam [mount]. There is nel [paddy] parai alappu or nel alavu, as a ritual performed for good luck and prosperity.
The largest Thai Pusam celebrations take place in Singapore Mauritius, and Malaysia. It is a public holiday throughout the whole Malaysia.
The temple at Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, often attracts over one million devotees and tens of thousands of tourists. The procession to the caves starts at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, Kuala Lumpur in the heart of the city and proceeds for 15 kilometers to the caves, an 8-hour journey culminating in a flight of 272 steps to the top.
Thaipusam is also celebrated at another cave site, the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh,Ipoh, Perak and at the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple along Jalan Waterfall in Penang. Temple secretary P. Palaiya Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunong Cheroh reports that about 250,000 devotees participate every year in this festival, which includs 300 kavadi bearers, while 15,000 come with milk offerings.
Although rare, scenes of people from different ethnic groups and faiths bearing “kavadi” can also be seen in Malaysia. Thaipusam is also increasingly being celebrated by the ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia.
In Singapore, Hindu devotees start their procession at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in the early morning, carrying milk pots as offerings or attaching “Kavadis” to their bodies. The procession travels for 4 kilometres before finishing at the Tank Road Temple. The devotees are usually accompanied by supporters who cheer to keep their morale high.
This temple is the starting point for devotees during the annual Thaipusam festival. Devotees, their tongues and cheeks pierced by great metal skewers supporting Kavadi [cage-like constructions decorated with wire and peacock feathers], make their way to the Chettiar Hindu Temple on Tank Road in this colourful procession. This is done in gratitude or supplication to Lord Murugan.
Body Piercing on Thaipusam
Many fanatical devotees go to such extent as to torture their bodies to appease the Lord. So, a major feature of Thaipusam celebrations is body piercing with hooks, skewers and small lances called ‘vel’.
Many of these devotees even pull chariots and heavy objects with hooks attached to their bodies. Many others pierce their tongue and cheek to impede speech and thereby attain full concentration on the Lord. Most devotees enter into a trance during such piercing due to the incessant drumming and chanting of “vel vel shakti vel.”