Thaipusam is one of my personal favourites among the very many festivals we have here in Singapore, probably because it is one of the most vibrant, colourful, and memorable events you will ever witness.
A religious event for Tamil Hindus, those who participate do so to give thanks and seek penance. In this extremely unusual form of worship, devotees pierce their bodies with long metal skewers and carry weighted burdens of 40kg for some four kilometres, all the while dancing barefoot (or sometimes on nailed sandals) to rhythmic chants.
Celebrated in only a few countries, Thaipusam in Singapore differs from the original festival in India, where Hindus from the state of Tamil Nadu carry heavy milk pots rather than the awe-inspiring Kavadis carried here. The procession is a a photographer’s paradise where light, colour and frenzy come together in vivid splendour.
On the eve of Thaipusam, the gods have a “family visit” with a silver chariot setting off before dawn from the Sri Thendayuthapani temple in Tank Rd, which is dedicated to Murugan. He’s on his way to greet his brother Ganesha at the Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar temple in Keong Saik Rd, and his mother Parvati at the Sri Mariamann temple in South Bridge Road before blessing various of the traditional Chettiar banks around the CBD. He finally returns home in the early evening ready to greet the Thaipusam penitents the following day.
Needless to say, Thaipusam 2021 (on Jan 28) will be a much less elaborate affair than usual, and with all the Covid restrictions in place we sadly cannot run our usual tours but we will be back for 2022—hopefully!