Spiritual vows to fulfil

By WINNIE YEOH and ANN TAN
Photos by CHIN CHENG YEANG, GARY CHEN and FONG KEE SOON

Doing it for dad: Supramaniam making his way to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani hilltop temple in Waterfall Road.

Doing it for dad: Supramaniam making his way to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani hilltop temple in Waterfall Road.

MUSIC blared away while thousands of devotees thronged Jalan Utama to participate in the annual Thaipusam celebration in Penang.

Many tourists and domestic visitors took advantage to join in the event.

It was celebrated in a grand manner with thousands of pilgrims marching through the streets, carrying kavadis on their shoulders with skewers pierced through their mouths and hooks dangling from their bodies.

Never too heavy: Devotees leaving Lorong Kulit with their kavadis.

Never too heavy: Devotees leaving Lorong Kulit with their kavadis.

The celebration began early yesterday when devotees started preparations at a temple on Lorong Kulit before walking to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani hilltop temple on Waterfall Road, some 6km away.

Many devotees had earlier performed prayers, and some also went into a trance in order to allow themselves to be pierced with the skewers and other sharp objects.

Devotee N. Supramaniam, 17, was fulfilling his vow to the deity for saving his father’s leg from being amputated.

“My father is a diabetic and the doctor said his left leg had to be amputated after he fell four months ago,” he said.

“After my prayer, the doctor said only his toes needed to be amputated.

“So now I have 101 miniature urns hooked in front of my body and 18 hooks on my back while my friend pulls them,” he said.

Ch'ng Yew Koon pulling a chariot bearing the image of the goddess Kali at Waterfall Road.

Ch'ng Yew Koon pulling a chariot bearing the image of the goddess Kali at Waterfall Road.

Mosaic layer Ch’ng Yew Koon, 45, was seen pulling a chariot that weighed over 100kg bearing the image of the goddess Kali at Jalan Utama.

It was his seventh year pulling the chariot and it was an instant crowd-puller as devotees approached him to let him place holy red powder on their foreheads.

To make the celebration merrier, some 100 ‘thaneer panthal’ (refreshment stalls) lined the road to offer free refreshments to devotees.

Spiritual quest: Devotees hooked with lime, lemons and oranges at Datuk Keramat Road.

Spiritual quest: Devotees hooked with lime, lemons and oranges at Datuk Keramat Road.

Many hawkers also set up stalls selling balloons, costumes, precious ornaments, cold drinks, apparel and books.

A check with the police showed that there were around 150 personnel overseeing public order.

The Malaysian Red Cresent Society also assigned 160 volunteers to be on duty, rotating on four shifts.

The volunteers were kept busy attending to devotees who had fainted from the heat or those who slipped or fell while participating in the Hindu festival.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon was also seen with state Gerakan chairman Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan and other party leaders during the event.

Dr Koh said he was glad to see that the pilgrimage had attracted people of different nationalities and races.

“The atmosphere is good and it is celebrated in a 1Malaysia way. I hope the country will continue to be peaceful and prosperous,” he said.

Australian tourist Grace Collinson regarded the celebration as an eye-opener.

“My father came across this colourful celebration during one of his backpacking trips with his friends three years ago. Since then, he has never missed bringing me here,” she said.

Collinson, 13, said that seeing the devotees get their bodies pierced made her feel squeamish but she was surprised to see no blood involved throughout the process.

“This just goes to show that God is always protecting us with his power and spirit,” she said.

Expatriate Sabine Reuhl, 39, and her daughter Alina, nine, who have been living in Penang for 18 months, said both of them were thrilled to witness the colourful religious festival.

Source link

Category: News @ George Town