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Thaipusam: Significance of this Hindu Festival

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good vanquishing evil. In Tamil, the word “Thaipusam” is translated as the month of the Pusam star (“Thai” is a month while “Pusam” is the name of the star). At the same time, there is another meaning for Thaipusam – “Thai” which means ten and “Pusam” means Full Moon day or Purnima. Thus, the festival is also called the festival of the tenth moon.

Thaipusam is one of the more popular festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka. At the same time, Hindu devotees in Malaysia celebrate the festival too. Hence, in conjunction with celebrating Thaipusam, let us understand the history and significance of why Hindus celebrate the Festival of the Tenth Month. To learn more, please continue reading.

“Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good vanquishing evil. In Tamil, the word “Thaipusam” is translated as the month of the Pusam star (“Thai” is a month while “Pusam” is the name of the star).”

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival that celebrates the victory of good vanquishing evil. In Tamil, the word “Thaipusam” is translated as the month of the Pusam star (“Thai” is a month while “Pusam” is the name of the star). At the same time, there is another meaning for Thaipusam – “Thai” which means ten and “Pusam” means Full Moon day or Purnima. Thus, the festival is also called the festival of the tenth moon.

Thaipusam is one of the more popular festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka. At the same time, Hindu devotees in Malaysia celebrate the festival too. Hence, in conjunction with celebrating Thaipusam, let us understand the history and significance of why Hindus celebrate the Festival of the Tenth Month.

History

Thaipusam is celebrated to commemorate the feats of the Hindu deity, Lord Subramaniam, the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Sakti. Found in the Hindu mythological book, “Skanda Purana”, the Hindu festival was the day when Lord Subramaniam appeared before his devotees while riding a peacock which is known to be his “vahana” or vehicle. At the same time, it is to acknowledge his triumph over evil.

According to the legend, devas or the celestial beings were plagued by asura or demons that they had to plead to Lord Siva for help. Touched by their pleases, Lord Siva sent his son Subramaniam to defeat the asuras.

Upon completing the task, Subramaniam was believed to have appeared before his devotees and was seen wearing brilliant jewels, armed with a golden spear and seated on a chariot. Hence, on Thaipusam day, Lord Subramaniam’s image is adorned and decorated and is placed on a silver chariot before his devotees. The chariot is then taken on a procession to a designated Hindu temple.

In addition to being acknowledged as symbols of bravery, power, virtue and beauty, Hindus believe that Lord Subramaniam is the universal giver of blessing. Thus, those who have made vows and pledges to Lord Subramaniam will prove their gratitude by undergoing self-mortification on Thaipusam.

Meanwhile, penitents in fulfillment of vows will carry the kavadi on the day of the festival. Carrying of the kavadi is the most popular form of sacrifice during Thaipusam as it means sacrifice at every step. Hence, it is the kavadi that identifies the festival of Thaipusam. It is believed that Iduban, a devotee of Lord Subramaniam, carried an offering that pleased him that he blessed his people with countless blessings. The burden that was carried by Iduban has passed down in the form the kavadi.

The significance of devotees carrying the kavadi is to ask for forgiveness, keep a vow or offer thanks to Lord Subramaniam. Carrying the kavadi also symbolizes a belief where kavadi is seen as a mountain with Lord Subramaniam at its peak.

Other forms of sacrifices during Thaipusam include piercing silver pins through the cheek and tongue and pricking the body with hooks and spear-like needles. The piercing of flesh is related to the Hindu concepts of ritual purity and pollution.

Did you know that a kavadi carrier may have as many 100 spears piercing his flesh, however, suffer very little blood loss as it is sustained by faith via a trancelike state? At the same time, the devotee who intends to perform such sacrifice is needed to observe strict physical and mental discipline. This includes eating just one vegetarian meal a day, and avoiding any sexual activity while having to fast for 24 hours on the eve of Thaipusam.

For female devotees, they will bring a pot of milk – palkuddam and they will pour it all over the statue of Lord Subramaniam at the end of the procession. Other than visiting the temples and to fulfill their vows and paying penance, some will go with their families to pray and seek spiritual solace.

That said, from me and the team behind I AM MICHAEL TEH would like to wish all Hindus a Happy Thaipusam, and may the full moon of Thaipusam become a doorway to higher possibilities in your life.

Credit: Singapore Infopedia – https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_760_2004-12-27.html

Michael Teh, 11th January 2022.