Vel, Vel, Vadivel: Thaipusam in Singapore

30 01 2010

Thaipusam is one of several religious festivals which makes a grey Singapore a little more colourful. It is one of those things that is still very much practiced in the same fashion as it had been when the first Tamil immigrants brought the tradition over from Tamil Nadu. I have been fascinated with the festival since my days as a schoolboy, particularly the sight of tongues, cheeks and various parts of the body pierced with vels, skewers or imaginary spears. Going to school along Bras Basah Road, I wasn’t far away from the “action”. This  took place one a year during the Tamil month of Thai, on the day of the full moon. The procession of devotees carrying Kavadis of various forms and milk pots, accompanied by friends and family members and the sound of drums, musical instruments (only drums are permitted today) and the chants of “Vel, Vel, Vadivel“, through a four kilometre route from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple in Tank Road would pass close by at Dhoby Ghaut. As schoolboys, several of us would follow a part of the procession from Selegie Road to Penang Road and sometimes on to Tank Road, where some of the more daring ones would go inside the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, where a vegetarian meals served on banana leaves would await them.

I have somehow never photographed the event and did so today. The tradition of Thaipusam provides interesting reading, but there would be enough of it already explained elsewhere so I guess it is best to let the photographs do the talking …

The Vel Kavadi is synonymous with Thaipusam in Singapore

The Vel Kavadi is adorned with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 vels or skewers pierced into the skin on the chest and back.

Peacock feathers on a Kavadi.

Devotees carrying a milk pot and a simple Kavadi.

Milk Pots are carried by both men and women, young and old.

The procession on Selegie Road.

Kavadis along Selegie Road.

Devotees with milk pots along Selegie Road.

Devotee carrying a simple Kavadi.

Concentration and silence is maintained by the Kavadi bearers.

Devotees carrying milk pots.

Old and young carrying milk pots.

Hooks on the back of a devotee pulling a chariot.

More scenes and faces captured during the procession along Upper Serangoon and Selegie Roads today.

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4 responses

1 02 2010
The Singapore Daily » Blog Archive » Daily SG: 1 Feb 2009

[...] the universe and everything – Singapore Life and Times: The Fifa Tango – The Long and Winding Road: Vel, Vel, Vadivel: Thaipusam in Singapore – a groovyweb: Singapore Post Lost My Wife’s US$400 Parcel And Does Not Care [Thanks Isman & [...]

2 02 2010
noelbynature

have you seen the procession in KL or Penang? Singapore pales in comparison!

3 02 2010
The wondering wanderer

I had the opportunity when I was in Penang two years back, but I decided to take a drive up north instead (someone told me that it is better to avoid going that year due to the possibility of some trouble with the issue with Hindraf going on). I did encounter the procession near Jalan Gottlieb on the drive back from the ferry, and saw a few Kavadis but I can’t actually say I have seen the procession. From I have read and the photos I have seen about the ones in Penang and the Batu Caves – I certainly agree with you that the one in Singapore pales in comparison, and I would love to see the processions there. Have you seen them yourself?

25 02 2010
The far side of the hill « The Long and Winding Road

[...] practice for our P.E. This was also how we could get across from school to watch the annual Thaipusam procession, which would make its way along Tank Road to its destination at the Sri Thandayuthapani [...]

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