GEORGE TOWN, Jan 27 — For the first time, this year’s Thaipusam festival in Penang will witness the golden ‘vel’ or spear used by Lord Murugan carried on a golden chariot through a nine-kilometre procession.
It will be the first appearance of a golden chariot after 231 years and this year’s procession will certainly, steal the hearts of visitors from around the world as they come to watch the inaugural event in Malaysia at the Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga near here.
For hundreds of years, the statue of Lord Murugan had always been carried on a silver chariot during the Thaipusam festival in Penang. This year, however, both the golden and silver chariots will be used for the journey to the temple.
Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple chairman, R. Subramaniam said next month’s Thaipusam festival would be a grand and unique celebration.
He said the golden chariot procession would start from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Lebuh Queen at 5am, and was due to arrive at Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple at 11pm on the same day.
“The specially-designed RM3 million golden chariot from India weighs 2,300kg or 2.3 tonnes, and measures 14 feet in height,” he told Bernama when met at the temple recently.
Interestingly, the golden chariot will be pulled by men, unlike the silver chariot which had always been pulled by bullocks.
According to Subramaniam, 56, the golden chariot was created because previously, the temple was small but times have changed and the temple has been enlarged to include a range of facilities and has become a local and world attraction.
He said over 1.3 million visitors were expected to attend the Thaipusam celebration this year to witness the unique procession.
Commenting on possible clashes with the presence of the two chariots, he denied there would be fights or disputes as reported.
“No such thing is going to happen. We are here to offer our prayers and ask for blessings and this is a religious event,” said Subramaniam, confident the event would be a peaceful affair as the police would also be around to ensure the procession went on smoothly.
He also refuted claims the golden chariot procession was going against age-old tradition.
“No, we are not breaking any tradition. The silver chariot will carry the Lord Murugan statue while the golden chariot will carry his golden ‘vel’.
“There is no issue here unless, the golden chariot also carries the Lord Murugan statue,” noted the temple chairman.
It is understood the silver chariot procession operated by the Chettiar community will start from the Kovil Veedu Temple in Lebuh Penang and head towards the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga.
Subramaniam said visitors from Singapore, Indonesia, Canada and Australia would be among the crowd, adding that 127 booths would be available to offer free food and drinks.
The Thaipusam festival is celebrated by Hindus worldwide to honour the Hindu god, Lord Subramaniam who is also known as Lord Murugan. — Bernama