Curious to find out more about the beautiful Thaipusam celebration, mama? We’ve got all the deets, including the schedule, proper etiquette for observers, and what’s new for Thaipusam 2020!
Saturday 8 February marks the 2020 start of Thaipusam, the popular annual foot procession which is a sacred Tamil thanksgiving festival involving asceticism and control over one’s senses. According to Tamil folklore, it is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan (also known as Lord Subrahmanya), who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil.
In Singapore, Thaipusam attracts thousands of Hindu devotees who fulfil their vows over a 3km walk from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (SSPT) at Serangoon Road to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (STT) at Tank Road. In keeping with an old tradition that was revived in 2016, musicians will line the procession route, a wonderful addition to the already festive atmosphere. Click here for a list of live music points during the Thaipusam 2020 procession. Thaipusam is a beautifully moving celebration, and non-Hindu observers are welcomed and encouraged to respectfully join in the festivities.
How is Thaipusam celebrated?
The festivities are split into two days. The eve of Thaipusam (Friday 7 February 2020 this year) kicks off with a chariot procession in which the statue of Lord Murugan is adorned with jewellery, and he leaves STT for a visit to seek blessings from his brother (Lord Vinayagar) at Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple (Keong Saik Road). You can also see this amazing procession as it stops at Sri Mariamman Temple (South Bridge Road), as Lord Murugan pays homage to Goddess Parvathi (who is his mother) within.
What: Chariot procession on the eve of Thaipusam
When: Friday 7 February, departs Sri Thendayuthapani temple around 6:30pm (confirm timings with with temples)
The arrival of devotees starts very early on Saturday with prayers, and around midnight, the first group of devotees carrying pots of milk and kavadis (semi-circular metal structures decorated with peacock feathers, flowers and palm leaves), leave for the journey from SSPT back to STT. Kavadi translates to “sacrifice at every step.”
The milk offering symbolises cleansing of the mind and soul, whilst devotees who pierce their tongues or carry a spiked kavadi are believed to only be able to undertake this sacred task without feeling any pain when they have freed their body and mind from material and physical wants.
In fact, in order to carry a kavadi, a devotee has to prepare himself spiritually and live a life of abstinence (including a strict vegetarian diet) for at least a month. While it is quite an amazing sight to watch devotees carrying these kavadis, do bear in mind that this is a sacred religious act, so visitors are requested to refrain from making fun of the followers. Visitors are generally welcome to take photos so long as they are respectful and do not distract the focus of the devotees.
What: Entrance to SSPT on Serangoon Road, prayers, and procession to STT on Tank Road
When: Saturday 8 February 2020, 12am – 3pm (there are two waves of processions, from 3am to 9am and 9am to 3pm, although the preparations at STT will kick into high gear between 6am-8am).
Another highlight for observers is the beautiful live Indian music at the festival set up along the 3km route (covering Hastings Road, Short Street and Dhoby Ghaut Green). Devotees believe the music is useful in reducing the pain and enhancing their spiritual focus throughout their journey. Bhajan singers may accompany kavadis throughout the route, and musicians are allowed one traditional percussion instrument and one handheld instrument. Western instruments and amplification devices are not allowed.
Expect a constant stream of devotees making their way with offerings until about 6pm in the evening, so get to Tank Road as early as you can if you want to soak in the experience – it gets very busy, very fast. There are anticipated to be hundreds of kavadi bearers at this year’s procession, along with a total of 10,000 devotees carrying milk pots, whilst another 30,000 members of the public are expected to throng the streets.
Measures to Combat Coronavirus at Thaipusam 2020
In light of the usual crowds that celebration attracts, the Hindu Endowments Board has been particularly mindful of risks associated with the current coronavirus pandemic for Thaipusam 2020. The HEB has released a set of statements to ensure public safety, and will continue to posts updates on its Facebook page if the situation should change.