Penang Hindu temple completes annual silver chariot journey for Thaipusam before dawn

The chariot bearing the statue of Lord Muruga travels from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur to the Sri Subramaniam Swamy Temple in Batu Caves January 27, 2021. In Penang, the silver chariot departed the Kovil Verdi at 3am and arrived at the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple on Jalan Air Terjun at 5.55am. — Picture by Hari Anggara
The chariot bearing the statue of Lord Muruga travels from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur to the Sri Subramaniam Swamy Temple in Batu Caves January 27, 2021. In Penang, the silver chariot departed the Kovil Verdi at 3am and arrived at the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple on Jalan Air Terjun at 5.55am. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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GEORGE TOWN, Jan 27 — Despite the current Covid-19 lockdown, the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple was able to proceed with its annual Thaipusam silver chariot ceremony today after gaining approval from Putrajaya and the police.

Temple trustee Dr A. Narayanan said the 127-year-old chariot, which carries Lord Muruga holding the vel, departed the Kovil Verdi on Penang Street at 3am and arrived at the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple on Jalan Air Terjun at 5.55am without incident.

“Only 10 temple committee members were present throughout the procession and it was done according to strict SOPs,” he told Malay Mail when contacted this morning.

He said the ceremony followed the health regulations to prevent the coronavirus from spreading set by the National Security Council (NSC) and that devotees were not allowed at the temple.

“Once the chariot arrived, we have committee members to bring it in and we closed the gates of the temple as per the SOPs,” he said.

The chariot will make its way back to Penang Street on Friday.

Narayanan confirmed that the Hindu temple received approval to go ahead with the silver chariot ceremony from Human Resource Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan.

He said the temple committee had written to both the state and federal governments for approval to proceed with its annual silver chariot journey this year prior to the event as Penang was among the states under the strict movement control order that prohibits inter-district travel.

However, the Penang state executive council will only discuss their appeal today.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy who is also the state Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) chairman had yesterday said the board along with the Chettiar temple committee had agreed not to hold the procession this year due to the pandemic.

He said the decision to cancel the processions for both the silver and golden chariot was made by a joint committee comprising representatives of the NSC, State Health Department, police, immigration, customs and three members of the Nattukotai Chettiar temple.

“The Chettiar representatives including the present chairman, agreed with the decision to cancel the festival including the chariot procession,” he said.

He stressed that the Penang state government and PHEB “are not in popularity game with the Hindus in Penang”.

“We have to be responsible and honest in dealing effectively with the pandemic,” Ramasamy said.

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