KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 17 — The Thaipusam celebration tomorrow at the Sri Subramaniar temple in Batu Caves, Malaysia that used to draw hundreds and thousands of devotees annually, and thousands more tourists, will once again be a subdued affair.

It is the second consecutive year the colourful and vibrant Thaipusam celebration atmosphere in Malaysia has been scaled down, much to the disappointment of devotees and tourists.

The only consolation is that the sight of “paal koodam” bearers in yellow carrying milk pots and the chariot procession, albeit in a limited scale, provides some indication of the celebration.

No thanks to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and the strict SOPs enforced by the National Security Council to contain the pandemic, especially with the emergence of the Omicron variant that is said to spread faster.       

With no kavadis allowed by the temple management, and the number of devotees entering the temple ground capped at 9,000 on the day, many will only find it fit to skip Thaipusam in Batu Caves and other major temples this year.

On Thaipusam day, 18 prayer sessions for the presiding diety Lord Murugan from 5am to 11am will be allowed with each session accommodating 500 people only to avoid overcrowding, a miniscule number compared with the pre-Covid-19 days.

Though Thaipusam is also celebrated in south India, Mauritius, South Africa, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, the celebration in Malaysia’s Batu Caves and the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil in George Town, Penang is the grandest of all and is widely followed by the south Indian diaspora.   

A check by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama found that the management of Sri Subramaniar Swamy temple has also imposed stringent SOPs to restrict the number of devotees coming to the temple. Only several stalls selling flowers for prayers and food stalls can be seen open on the temple grounds.

The situation is similar in other temples in Malaysia where Thaipusam used to be celebrated on a grand scale, including at the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil in George Town Penang and Sri Subramaniar Temple at Gunung Cheroh, in Ipoh, Perak.

The Thaipusam festival will be celebrated by Hindus around the world tomorrow  in the month of “Thai”, which is the 10th month in the Tamil calendar, to commemorate the event where Lord Murugan received the sacred spear from his mother Goddess Parvati, to eliminate the evil demon, Soorapadman, and restore prosperity and human wellbeing. — Bernama