IPOH, Jan 14 — While the chariot procession of deities will go on the road here for Thaipusam next week, Hindu devotees in Ipoh are advised not to gather along the route for the second year straight.

With Covid-19 cases surging past the 3,000-mark again lately,  Ipoh Hindu Devasthana Paripalana Sabah president M. Vivekananda urged devotees to adhere to the latest standard operating procedures while fulfilling their prayers and vows at temples. 

He said that only temple priests, staff and nadaswaram band are allowed to follow the chariot procession this year. 

“We humbly request the devotees to not follow the chariot procession and also not to gather near the routes where the chariot is heading. 

“We hope everyone will follow the SOP so that we could have a safe and better Thaipusam this year,” he told Malay Mail when met at the Kallumalai Arulmigu Subramaniar Temple in Gunung Cheroh here recently.

The chariot procession will start on January 16 at 8pm from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Buntong and is expected to reach the Kallumalai Arulmigu Subramaniar Temple at around 1am the next day. 

The chariot will then remain at the temple until Thaipusam before travelling back to the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple on January 19 at around 5pm. 

Temples dos-and-don’ts for worshippers

Vivekananda also said that the temple will not allow any kavadi bearers following the latest ban on the kavadi ceremony to curb the spread of Covid-19.

He said that at the temple, devotees will only be allowed to perform their archanai (prayers) and paal koodam (milk offerings). 

“For archanai, 250 people are allowed at any one time and for paal koodam, only 50 people are allowed at one time. We have arranged barriers and two different lanes for this purpose so that there won’t any congestion or overcrowding. 

“The authorities only allow 3,000 devotees to visit the temple on Thaipusam. All visitors need to wear face masks while they are in the temple,” he said. 

Ipoh Hindu Devasthana Paripalana Sabah president M. Vivekananda speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Ipoh January 13, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najiib
Ipoh Hindu Devasthana Paripalana Sabah president M. Vivekananda speaks to Malay Mail during an interview in Ipoh January 13, 2022. — Picture by Farhan Najiib

He also said that the temple has prepared a special zone for those wanting to fulfill hair offering vows. 

Vivekananda said the temple forbids devotees from performing Angapradakshinam, a ritual which involves them perform rolling prostrations around the temple grounds. 

He also said that children and teenagers are not allowed into the temple during Thaipusam and visitors have to be fully vaccinated. 

“Senior citizens are allowed to come, but we’ve advised them to not do so if it is not really necessary. This is for their own safety,” he said. 

He added that there will be no thannir panthal (water stations) or other stalls near the temple area. 

Non-worshippers welcome as long as they mind SOPs

Ipoh Hindu Devasthana Paripalana Sabah secretary S. Chandrasaegaran said that non-Hindus and foreigners who want to visit the temple during Thaipusam are allowed to do so. 

However, he urged them to follow all the SOPs and sanitise their hands frequently. 

“We allow everyone to come, but please follow the rules. Once we eradicate Covid-19, then we can celebrate and enjoy a better Thaipusam,” he said. 

Thaipusam falls on January 18 this year, a Tuesday. The religious festival is also a public holiday in Perak, four other states (Penang, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, and Johor), and the Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

On Thaipusam, Hindu temples in Ipoh will be open for longer, from 5am to 11pm compared to regular days when they are open from 5am to 5pm. 

For worshippers, quieter celebrations still a celebration 

Private school teacher Jeya Sarkunan Jaya Thilagaratnam said that he is planning to go to the temple early morning of Thaipusam with his parents to avoid crowds.

“We are only going to the temple for prayers and to offer paal koodam

“I didn’t plan to carry the kavadi this year due to the pandemic so the kavadi ban did not affect me,” the 33-year-old said. 

Another devotee, Paranan Rajamanickam, a building supervisor, said that this year’s Thaipusam will be a moderate celebration for him. 

“However, I’m really excited to go to the temple on Thaipusam as I missed going to the temple for the festival since the pandemic started. 

“I will be going with my mother and we will reduce the time we spend there. We will also be double masking, sanitising our hands constantly and maintaining social distancing at all times for our own safety,” he said. 

“I do miss the old Thaipusam celebration, especially the kavadis and walking along with the chariot. It's a festival Hindus eagerly await yearly, and not being able to celebrate it for the past two years is really sad,” he added. 

A. Jeevitha, 40, said that she will be going to the temple, but does not plan to perform any ritual, including the paal koodam

“I will probably go there only for prayers. Don’t feel like offering paal koodam as usually when we offer paal koodam we will walk from our home to the temple. This year I’m not planning to do so due to the pandemic.

“Hopefully, Covid-19 cases will subside soon and we can celebrate next year Thaipusam like before,” the factory worker said.