Thaipusam participants urged to smash just one coconut only

GEORGE TOWN - One of the enduring sights during Thaipusam in Penang is the smashing of thousands of coconuts along the route taken by the chariot.

It's a tradition that has defied a campaign by some to remind the devotees that one coconut is enough.

One Chinese devotee has even ordered 2,200 coconuts for the purpose, said Anba Coconut Trading owner P. Sarasvathy, 58, said in her warehouse in Rangoon Road yesterday.

Sarasvathy said most of her customers ordered weeks ago and her price this year was RM1.80 (S$0.60).

Her stock of about 70,000 coconuts had run out, she said, adding that 30,000 were snapped up by several regular customers.

Since 1998, the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) has been running the One Coconut (oru thenggai) campaign with little success.

The campaign seeks to remind the faithful that smashing just one coconut symbolises the surrender of one's ego at the feet of the presiding deity Lord Muruga on Thaipusam.

However, many devotees believe that the more coconuts they smash, the better it gets.

In a press conference yesterday, CAP education officer N.V. Subbarow appealed to devotees to smash only one coconut each and donate the money used for buying more coconuts.

"The money will bring more merit if it is given to the needy or for the growth of Tamil schools.

"Buying thousands to smash on the street and later throw in the dumpsite is not a Hindu practice.

"Whatever food items offered to God should be treated as a prasadam, to be consumed by devotees and not discarded," he added.

Subbarow said the price of coconuts was expected to increase during Thaipusam.

"Coconuts were retailed at RM2 to RM2.50 last week. The price may increase up to RM3," he added.

Malaysia Hindhudharma Mamandram Penang chairman V. Nanda Kumar said recently that traditionally, only one coconut needed to be broken for the chariot to move forward.

In Ipoh, the dwindling supply of coconuts has caused prices to climb from RM1.40 each to RM2.50.

This is partly due to the rainy season and floods at plantations especially in the Bagan Datuk and Teluk Intan areas.

Wholesaler M. Selvam, 35, said there were fewer coconuts supplied to him from a plantation in Bagan Datuk.

He said that last year, he supplied some 10,000 coconuts to customers for Thaipusam but this year, could only get half the amount.

"I also have my regular customers in the food business, who require coconut milk for their restaurants," he added.

Another wholesaler Mohd Shariff Mohd Ibrahim said his clients bought some 35,000 coconuts for Thaipusam last year,

However, he could only supply about 5,000 this year.

He blamed the unpredictable weather, saying: "With the rainy season, plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia were affected.

"This led to increase in the price of the fruit," he said, adding that coconuts sold at his shop cost RM2 each.