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Celebrating Thaipusam in Singapore

Thaipusam celebration in Singapore is annually held as a Holy Hindu Festival. Participants are usually engaged in a four kilometer procession that begins at the stroke of midnight. There are expected to be about ten thousand participants as devotees to the celebration every year. The procession usually starts from the Serangoon Road Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple going to the Tank Road where the Hindu Temple is located. Devotees usually profess their vows to the Hindu God, Murugan by taking with them kavadis and milk pots.

The Thaipusam celebration usually happens every January and is most valuable Indian festival in Singapore. Many are looking forward for the Hindu festival to be celebrated annually with much enthusiasm in Singapore where the largest Indian population is located outside of India. In fact Indians rank third among the largest ethnic groups in Singapore. With this statistics there are diverse cultural practices, beliefs and religions in Singapore. Although a certain percentage of Indian population in Singapore adopts a modern culture and lifestyle, majority maintain their fidelity to the practice of Hinduism and continue to celebrate traditional festivals such as the Thaipusam.

Devotees to the Thaipusam celebrate the festival during full moon as the word Thaipusam means “when the moon is the brightest.” Thus, it is celebrated between January and February when there is full moon in these Tamil months. Among the common religious practices include body piercing and thanksgiving celebration to their Lord Subramaniam, the God who represents virtue, beauty, valor, and youthfulness. Sacrificial self-mortification is also common among the devotees who believe that their God is a universal giver of favor to those who show vows and pledge of devotion to him.

The festival celebration commemorates the victory of the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam. According to the ancient history demonic creatures plagued the celestial beings and the God helped them by sending his son, Subramaniam to defeat these demons. There were also beliefs that Subramaniam appeared to his devotees through a vision showing him to be dressed in jewels with a golden spear on his hand and rested on a chariot. Since then the Thaipusam is celebrated in commemoration with this belief with people adoring the beautifully crafted silver chariot where the image of Subramaniam is displayed.

Devotees subject themselves to the common rituals and rites of staging a sacrificial act to thank the God for the favors they receive from him. Male devotees would carry kavadis to show gratitude during the Chetty Pusam cultural event. The kavadis are steel racks of 40 kg in weight which are decorated with fruits and flowers and are attached on the body of males through hooks and skewers which pierce through their skin. Some would pierce their tongues and cheeks using spikes and skewers with fruits hanging from the hooks. In these states they would procession through a 2 mile route until they reach the Tank Road Temple with their families waiting for them who would help them remove the heavy structures from their bodies. Throughout the procession other devotees would accompany them, chanting and giving prayers to encourage the participants.

Ms. Pinky is a mom of 3 school children. She is a Systems Engineer, a Technology Researcher and an Independent Medical Billing and Coding Consultant. She and her family is well-traveled all over the world!

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