For my fellow Malaysians of Hindu faith

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By Yusuf Hashim | MALAYSIA |
This is part of the crowd of thousands of devotees carrying milk offerings for Lord Murugan – Photo by Yusuf Hashim

There has been a lot of public anger against the Kedah Chief Minister for rescinding the public holiday for Thaipusam in Kedah this year. I think it’s a shame that he did it. It shows a total lack of sensitivity on his part for the feelings of Hindus in Malaysia.

I am at a loss to fathom the rationality of his action, and I surmise it’s probably to win brownie points from his Malay-Muslim electorate. If that is so, I’d like to say that this is not the way to do it. It’s not a zero-sum game, that you take from one side to win kudos from another side. Good leaders (I hate that word) need to be fair and magnanimous, and should set a good example of good leadership. Over the years, I feel the political leadership in this country, particularly the Malay leadership, has become more and more uncaring for the feelings of other races in our multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural Malaysia. Our diversity is a strength, which ought to be nurtured and optimised for the country’s total good. Yet the Malay political leadership refuses to acknowledge this. They continue to alienate, instead of to unify. And it’s solely for the purpose of endearing themselves only to the Malays, which forms the base of their narrow and very selfish political interests.

I feel sad for the disappointment of my fellow Malaysians of the Hindu faith. There’s not much I can do to change the mindset of some Malay leaders (I remind you, there are many good Malay Leaders too), except to continue to speak up, in the hope that the insensitive leaders, will realise the error of their political manoeuvring. I humbly hope selfish and uncaring Malay politicians will remember that they are supposed to be leaders of ALL Malaysians, and they should ensure that every citizen in this country should be treated fairly and equally.

In case they and the Malays do not know what Thaipusam is about, let me educate them a little, from photos I shot of the Thaipusam festival on this day, 7 years ago.

No Thaipusam public holiday for Kedah this year, says MB –

GEORGE TOWN: The Kedah state government has announced that there will be no public holiday for Thaipusam this year as all the activities during the festival will be cancelled due to the movement control order.

Kedah Mentri Besar Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor (pic) said the festival will not be marked as “cuti peristiwa” (occasional holiday) since there is no celebration of the annual festival this year.

“There will be no ‘cuti peristiwa’ this year. Since there is no celebration, there is no need to have a public holiday,” he said during a press conference at Wisma Darul Aman on Thursday (Jan 21).

Since 2017, Thaipusam has been declared as “cuti peristiwa” by then mentri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah. (The Star, 21 Jan 2021)

Thaipusam is a time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to say thank you and show their appreciation to one of their Gods, Lord Murugan, a son of Shiva. The festival of Thaipusam was brought to Malaysia in the 1800s, when Indian immigrants started to work on the Malaysian rubber estates and the government offices.

Thaipusam is celebrated during the full moon in the 10th month of the Hindu calendar, which usually falls between January and February. In 2016, Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur fell on this day, the 24th of January.

Lord Murugan is the destroyer of evil, and the fountain of virtue, youth and power for Hindus.

The Thaipusam ceremonies start in the early hours of the morning, when a chariot carrying a statue of Lord Murugan leaves the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Jalan Tun H.S. Lee for the Hindu Temple at Batu Caves.

This is the chariot containing Lord Muruga’s image, which is decorated with diamonds, rubies and other jewels, as it makes its way from the Sri Mahariaman Temple in Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown, to the Batu Caves temple. Thaipusam celebrates the day Goddess Parvati bestowed upon her son the “vel” or lance to vanquish the evil demon, Soorapadam. This lance denotes spiritual insight, an ability to differentiate right from wrong, righteousness and steadfastness. However, for many Hindus, Thaipusam has come to mean the birthday of Lord Subramaniam, also known as lord Muruga, the younger son of Lord Shiva. Thaipusam falls on the 10th month of the Hindu calendar. It coincides with the full moon at the end of January and beginning of February. ‘Thai’ is the Hindu month which falls between January 15 to February 15 and ‘Pusam’ refers to a star which is at its brightest during the period of this festival. – Photo/text by Yusuf Hashim

The chariot is accompanied by thousands of devotees, with many carrying jars of milk as offerings to Murugan for answered prayers. Devotees also perform penance by carrying ornamental structures called kavadis, which are attached to their bodies by hooks or spikes that penetrate their flesh. The kavadis also contain two small pots of milk, which are used to bathe a statue of Lord Subramaniam at Batu Caves.

Along the route, coconuts are also smashed in the path of the Chariot of Lord Muruga, exposing the white kernal from the dirty brown exterior of the husk and shell, signifying the release of the purity within…

Devotees usually shave their heads, coat their bodies with holy ash, wear saffron robes, and they may insert metal skewers through their cheeks and tongues, and have hooks with weights penetrating the flesh on their backs.

Thaipusam is an amazing festival and is yet another facet of multicultural Malaysia that you should not miss, and for which there should be a national holiday, as is already the case in several states. And Kedah should follow suit.

Malaysians are so blessed with so much cultural and religious diversity. Yet the Malay leadership will not appreciate this. For those who have never witnessed a Thaipusam Festival in Malaysia, I hope these photos will encourage foreigners to visit Malaysia during the annual Thaipusam celebrations which usually falls between January and February. If properly marketed by the Tourism Ministry, it could become a huge tourist draw. Unfortunately this year, the Covid pandemic has forced the cancellation the the public displays of thanksgiving to the Hindu Lord Murugan.

Which is why I am sharing my photos of Thaipusam shot from many years ago, to show Malaysian and Malay solidarity, to our fellow Malaysians of the Hindu faith. (Source: Yusuf Hashim Facebook page)

 

Yusuf Hashim, a retired oil & gas company executive, is a gypsetter at heart.

* This is the opinion of the writer, organisation or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Asia Samachar.

 

RELATED STORY:

We don’t do kavadi. Period. (Asia Samachar, 4 Feb 2015)

 

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