KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 6 — Thaipusam celebration this year is expected to be less festive due to a total lunar eclipse that will force all Hindu temples nationwide to shorten their procession by five hours.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk RS Mohan Shan said in November last year, a notice has been issued to all temples nationwide to draw the curtains temporarily between 6.30pm to 11.30pm on January 31.
“Instead of the 24-hour procession, Hindu devotees would have to cut their processions short. This may sullen the festivity a little bit because they have to keep in mind about the time limit but we have to respect our beliefs.
“We, however, have instructed all temples to re-open as soon as the eclipse ends,” he told Malay Mail.
A total lunar eclipse is expected to take place on January 31 between 6.51pm and 11.11pm.
The Hindus consider a total solar or lunar eclipse to be an inauspicious time where no auspicious works like worshipping, praying, or visiting the temples can be carried out.
They believe the eclipse, also known as ‘grahanam’ in Sanskrit, would block celestial energy from both the sunlight and moonlight from reaching Earth and its inhabitants.
For centuries, millions of devotees would flock to Hindu temples across Malaysia to showcase their devotion to the deity Lord Murugan, who is said to be a destroyer of evil who represents virtue, youth and power.
Batu Caves in Selangor and Penang are the two most popular destinations for devotees in Southeast Asia, who would seek blessings and fulfil vows by carrying milk pots as offerings, and ‘kavadi’ —structures meant as ceremonial physical burden, some with body piercings.
Devotees would usually start their procession together with the silver chariot from Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Jalan Tun HS Lee in the capital at night, before arriving at the Sri Subramaniam Swamy Devasthanam temple in Batu Caves by the afternoon the next day.
Meanwhile in Penang, the procession would start from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Lebuh Queen to the Sri Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga. Last year, the procession had included the golden chariot for the first time in 231 years.
Mohan said the phenomenon may also discourage a number of devotees from visiting the temples this year for the annual celebration due to the many taboos involved.
“There may be lesser devotees at the temples this year. There are also devotees who prefer night processions and since the temples are going to be closed, they may not even come.
“If the devotees wish to carry ‘kavadi’ or the ‘paal kudams’ (milk pots), I suggest they start early in the morning so they would have a chance to complete the prayers and the rituals.
In September last year, The Straits Times reported that Thaipusam celebrations in neighbouring Singapore would also be cut short by five-and-a-half hours due to the eclipse.
Its Sri Thendayuthapani Temple president AR Ramasamy was quoted saying the decision to cut short the celebration would be an “unprecedented event”.