50,000 throng streets to mark Thaipusam

50,000 throng streets to mark Thaipusam
Participants at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road yesterday. For the second year running, live music was permitted at the procession.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Cheered on by the throbbing rhythms of the urumi melam drums, and his friends and family, Mr Sangar Munusamy prepared himself mentally.

The 48-year-old has been carrying kavadis for the past eight years and this year was no different - he once again carried a kavadi, weighing more than 35kg, to honour Hindu deity Murugan.

"The feeling I have now can't be expressed in words," he said, as he was overwhelmed with pride and joy.

Mr Munusamy, who works in sales, was among the thousands of devotees in Serangoon Road who participated in this year's Thaipusam festivities.

The annual Hindu festival, which falls on the full-moon day of the Tamil month of Thai, is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power.

From the early hours of yesterday until midnight, devotees embarked on processions from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road, about 3km away.

An estimated 50,000 people thronged the streets to mark the festival. More than 10,000 carried milk pots as offerings, and about 300 carried kavadis - decorated steel and wood structures - to celebrate the fulfilment of their vows.

For the second year running, live music has been permitted at the Thaipusam procession.

Read also: Hindu devotees celebrate Thaipusam with piercings, procession

Like last year's festivities, live music was played in Short Street, Hastings Road and near Dhoby Ghaut Green, featuring nadaswaram (a double-reed wind instrument), thavil and urumi melam (Indian drums) players.

The number of music transmission points, where recorded music is broadcast from speakers, along the procession route also increased from nine to 23 this year.

"The music gives us more energy to carry the kavadi," said Mr Munusamy.

The procession was organised by the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB), Sri Thendayuthapani Temple and Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple.

HEB chairman R. Jayachandran said he is thankful that the devotees contributed to a well-organised event last year. "It is because of this that the authorities worked with HEB to provide more transmission music points," he added.

Last year's procession was the first in 42 years where live music was played. A ban was introduced in 1973 to restrict the playing of musical instruments because of a history of rivalry and fights between competing groups, which disrupted the procession. Live music performances have always been held in temples.

Hindu devotees in Singapore and Malaysia celebrate Thaipusam in 2017

The rule was relaxed in late 2015 after HEB held 10 feedback sessions with 116 members of the Hindu community.

Procession organisers hope to work with the authorities to offer more live and static music at the festival next year.

Education Minister (Higher Education and Skills) Ong Ye Kung witnessed the Thaipusam festivities inside both temples for the first time yesterday. Said Mr Ong: "It is a festival that symbolises good triumphing over evil, and the devotion and faith we have in that principle.

"It is a universal principle, not just shared by Hindus, but by all Singaporeans and humanity."

Read also: Chariots stay apart during Thaipusam procession in Penang


This article was first published on Feb 10, 2017.
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