Music eases burden for kavadi-bearers at Thaipusam celebrations, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Music eases burden for kavadi-bearers at Thaipusam celebrations

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Striding steadily, civil servant Murali Raj Unbalagan stepped into the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple, carrying a 40kg kavadi, feeling joy as he headed to the centre of the Hindu house of worship in Tank Road.

The 32-year-old had completed his annual foot journey, fulfilling a thanksgiving vow he made 14 years ago.

His 3½ hour journey, which began at 7am at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road, was made easier this year by the official relaxing of the rules on music along the procession route, Mr Murali told The Straits Times yesterday.

Besides the playing of devotional songs and music through broadcast systems at 35 spots along the route - 12 more than last year - the music was allowed to start an hour earlier at 7am and stopped at 10.30pm, an hour before celebrations ended.

This was also the first Thaipusam since 1973 where percussion instruments were allowed to be played by friends, relatives and professional religious singers accompanying the devotees.

Said Mr Murali: "Music is essential in a Thaipusam procession. It's not easy carrying a kavadi for 3km but the upbeat devotional songs boosted my energy and spirit, helped to take my mind off the fatigue and stay focused on completing my vows."

He was carrying a decorated steel and wood kavadi pinned to his torso with hooks and piercings, while a dozen hooks pierced into each thigh had tiny containers filled with red sugar offerings.

Mr Murali was one of more than 250 kavadi-bearers and 8,600 devotees carrying pots as offerings in the celebration to honour Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil.


The kavadi-bearers were accompanied by musicians playing traditional Indian percussion instruments, including the ganjira drum and one of either a thavil, dhol or khol.

More than 20,000 people, including devotees, took part in the procession that attracted crowds of Singaporeans and tourists.

In 1973, the playing of all music at the festival was banned after fights among competing groups.

But over the years, steps have been taken to allow music, noted Home Affairs and Law Minister K . Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam, who joined in the celebrations, told reporters that feedback from people about the new music rules has been "very positive".

Thaipusam, which typically takes place in a 24-hour period, came to an end at 11.30pm.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu was the guest of honour at the celebrations yesterday morning, where she visited both temples: Sri Srinivasa Perumal and Sri Thendayuthapani.