IPOH, Jan 23 — Every year before Thaipusam, a group of men will gather at a shop lot in Taman Rishah to make kavadi.

Calling themselves The Kavadi Masters, they hold monthly paying jobs but will take leave for the love of the art.

Their leader J. Lawrance Dev said they have a diverse group of makers.

“From bank managers to accountants, we also have trainee chargemen with us,” the event manager said.

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The Kavadi Masters member V. Jayajivan, who works as a bank manager, took leave to work on a 'kavadi' at their workshop. — Picture by Farhan Najib
The Kavadi Masters member V. Jayajivan, who works as a bank manager, took leave to work on a 'kavadi' at their workshop. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Depending on the number of kavadi orders, Lawrance said there would be at least two masters working on each of them.

“This year, we received orders for 12 kavadi for Thaipusam,” he told Malay Mail, adding that they have 40 masters in the group.

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As the head of the group, Lawrance is in charge of designing the kavadi.

Starting with a cardboard, Lawrance would sketch the design on it before it is cut and transferred to a piece of styrofoam.

“We will then cut the styrofoam using a knife based on the cardboard outline and after that process, we will use sandpaper to smoothen it before the colouring starts.”

Once the colouring is done, the assembling of kavadi would begin.

The Kavadi Masters member S. Kumaraguru working on a 'kavadi' to be used for this year's Thaipusam at their workshop in Taman Rishah, Ipoh. — Picture by Farhan Najib
The Kavadi Masters member S. Kumaraguru working on a 'kavadi' to be used for this year's Thaipusam at their workshop in Taman Rishah, Ipoh. — Picture by Farhan Najib

The word kavadi means “burden,” and is carried by worshippers during Thaipusam as a ritual offering to seek divine intercession.

It can be as simple as a pole, but can also be so intricate as to be considered works of art.

According to Lawrance, who learned the art of making kavadi from a sifu, who himself learned the art from Tamil Nadu, India, said the most elaborate kavadi made by his team is the chariot kavadi.

“I will be pulling the chariot during this year's Thaipusam,” said the 36-year-old father-of-two children.

Asked what has changed in the art of making kavadi over the years, Lawrance said except for the design, the major change is the use of peacock feathers.

“When the making of kavadi first started, the design normally had a peacock as it symbolises Lord Muruga's pet. But the newer designs only have peacock feathers instead of a peacock.”

As the art of making kavadi becomes more modern, Lawrance said it now also includes lighted ones.

“If a carrier wants their kavadi to be lighted, we will install LED lights once the kavadi is assembled.”

On the price of making a kavadi, Lawrance said it would cost anything between RM3,800 and RM15,000 each.

“This year the most expensive kavadi made by me is RM10,000 as the carrier ordered a lighted kavadi.”

The Kavadi Masters started taking orders for 'kavadis' as far back as one year ago. — Picture by Farhan Najib
The Kavadi Masters started taking orders for 'kavadis' as far back as one year ago. — Picture by Farhan Najib

If you want to order a kavadi, Lawrance said they would start taking orders for next year's Thaipusam after the completion of this year's celebration.

“Production will start six months before the celebration proper. You can give us the kavadi design you wish to make or we will design on your behalf.”

Lawrance said they also have ready made ones that would be destroyed if there are no buyers.

“This is because there are six celebrations in the Hindu calendar that are associated with Lord Muruga and only these celebrations will feature the carrying of kavadi.”

For further details, visit The Kavadi Masters on their Facebook.