Penang Hindu Endowment Board stands firm on decision not to allow chariot procession during Thaipusam

Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy speaks during a press conference at the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in George Town January 26, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Deputy Chief Minister P. Ramasamy speaks during a press conference at the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in George Town January 26, 2021. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, Jan 26 — The Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) is adamant about not allowing any chariot procession or kavadi-bearers during Thaipusam to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

PHEB chairman P. Ramasamy said the board could not allow any procession, whether it is the gold or silver chariots, during Thaipusam despite the loss in donations.

“We are suffering losses of between RM500,000 and RM600,000 in donations by cancelling the procession and all Thaipusam festivities but we need to be responsible, we do not want a Thaipusam cluster,” he said during a press conference at the grounds of the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple today.

The Penang deputy chief minister II said it was not only the Thaipusam festival that was cancelled, but also Chinese New Year celebrations.

He stressed that this does not mean there is no public holiday for Thaipusam, with Hindu devotees still allowed to conduct prayers at home.

Ramasamy slammed the National Security Council (NSC) for allowing the chariot procession in Batu Caves as this had sparked others to demand for processions to be held, including Nattukotai Chettiar Temple in Penang.

He said it was obviously a political move by the NSC to allow the chariot procession in Batu Caves when previously it had agreed with the Penang state government’s stance not to allow any sort of procession or large-scale public festivities during Thaipusam.

He said the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple wrote to the state government and the Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow yesterday to appeal for the silver chariot procession to be held during Thaipusam this Thursday.

“The state exco will discuss their appeal and make a decision tomorrow,” he said.

“Personally, I do not agree to allow them because if the silver chariot is allowed, then the golden chariot will want to be allowed too and then those in Perak, Kedah, Johor and other temples in Selangor may also want to be allowed,” he added.

He criticised Nattukotai Chettiar Temple for its “selfish” and “irresponsible” move in appealing for the procession to be held especially in the midst of a pandemic.

“If the procession was held and something was to happen, they will know the consequences,” he said.

He appealed to all Hindu devotees to be patient and to conduct their respective prayers at home this Thaipusam.

“Let us all stay safe during now so that next year we can have larger and better Thaipusam celebrations,” he said.

Thaipusam falls on January 28 this year, and conventionally, in Penang, the silver and gold chariots make their way to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in a procession while devotees break coconuts in their path as offerings.

The Thaipusam celebrations in Penang often draw thousands of devotees from all over and are often crowded as kavadi-bearers and devotees make their way to the temple to make their offerings, fulfill their pledges, give thanks and pray.

This year, Ramasamy announced that all Thaipusam festivities are cancelled and all temples will be closed to prevent devotees from crowding them.

He said Thaipusam prayers and pooja will be held via ‘live’ telecast so devotees can participate from the safety of their homes.

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