Last year I avoided Thaipusam because I knew traffic would be bad and also I just plain got lazy, but this year seeing as it will be our last year in Penang Aya and I decided to go see what all the hubbub was about.
In Malaysia there is a pretty big Tamil community and Penang I feel like even more so. Thaipusam is a word meaning the month of the star, or something close to that, and is celebrated by Hindu devotees. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. I can’t pretend I know any of that though, wikipedia tells me so. What I knew about the festival is that it involved moving a heavy silver shrine from Lorong Kulit temple in Georgetown to Arulmigu Sri Balathandayuthapani Temple near the botanical gardens, people would be making offerings of milk, and there would be a lot of devotees making the long walk there with hooks and spears in their bodies. Yeah, you read that right. Carrying kavadis, or burdens can be done as an act of penance. Usually in Penang this is done by carrying pots of milk, being speared, or both. Upon reaching the temple, devotees will fulfill their vows, offer thanksgiving prayers and penance to Lord Muruga.
We didn’t get speared or carrying any milk. More or less we wandered around Jalan Waterfall to see the speared men making their march to the temple and to get some street food. Aya ended up getting some henna done on her hand as well. After snapping a couple of pictures we left, mission complete. On the list of things to do in Penang, one more thing checked off. Now, I have to get Aya to climb Penang Hill with me!