GEORGE TOWN: A two-hour head start by the golden chariot kept it about 1.5km apart from the silver one as the two created the first dual chariot procession in Penang's history on the eve of Thaipusam.
The gap between them narrowed at one point in Jalan Datuk Keramat because the golden chariot was hindered by the masses of coconuts piled along the street, but after the fruits were smashed and the debris cleared, the chariot surged ahead and kept the gap.
Earlier in the morning, the street became a sea of open umbrellas as the golden chariot rolled out in a pre-dawn downpour from the Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street on its maiden journey to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple at Waterfall Road.
The golden chariot was organised by the state-run Penang Hindu Endowment Board.
The vel (spear) of the Hindu god Muruga was placed on the golden chariot at 5.10am and its procession began 10 minutes later, towed by a train of 20 devotees accompanied by thousands others chanting Vel! Vel.
The silver chariot, operated by Nattukotai Chettiar temple and the sole Thaipusam chariot for the last 126 years, waited for the rain to taper down and moved out only at 7.10am, a delay of 40min from the original departure time of 6.30am.
Several thousand devotees gathered around Kovil Veedu in Penang Street, extending offerings to Lord Muruga on the silver chariot before the procession began.
George Town OCPD Asst Comm Mior Faridalathrash Wahid was present to get a first-hand view of the traffic situation and monitor the departure of the chariots.
Fireworks were set off before the silver chariot moved, surprising devotees who were used to a subtle way the chettiars handled their celebration.
Nattukotai Chettiar Temple managing trustee M. Renganathan said the fireworks were not lit by the temple but could be the work of devotees.
The silver chariot was expected to reach Nattukotai Chettiar Temple at Jalan Kebun Bunga after midnight, with the golden chariot reaching the nearby Arulmigu Balathan-dayuthapani Temple around the same time.
Tens of thousands of people in Penang are expected to turn up for Thaipusam today.
In Kuala Lumpur, the silver chariot carrying Lord Muruga left the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Jalan Bandar at 10pm on Tuesday and arrived at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves at 2.30 pm yesterday.
Thousands of devotees carrying paal kudam or pannir kudam (milk pot) followed the chariot as it stopped at several points to allow for prayers along the route.
About 1.6 million visitors are expected to converge at Batu Caves for the Thaipusam festival this year.
Read also: Two chariots for Lord Muruga in Malaysia