A annual walk of faith

28 01 2013

Thaipusam is perhaps the most colourful of the religious and cultural traditions brought in by the early immigrants to modern Singapore that is today celebrated on the streets of Singapore. Celebrated by Tamils from southern India during the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai, the festival in Singapore is notable for the 4 kilometre procession over which devotees carry a “burden”, in the form of a kavadi. The procession which starts from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road and ends at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (Chettairs’ Temple) at Tank Road sees hundreds of devotees every year making their way along the route carrying kavadis which range from milk pots placed on their heads to more elaborate kavadis such as spike kavadis and chariot kavadis. The spike (or “vel”) kavadis is perhaps the most elaborate and involves the piercing of up to 108 spikes onto the body. The chariot kavadis involves the attachment of hooks to the backs of bearers which is attached to ropes pulling a chariot. Devotees often also have other piercings carried out including with skewers through the tongue and cheeks with holy ash applied to the area before hand. The piercings are said to inflict no pain as well as leave no scars (no blood is spilled as well) – devotees go through a 48 day spiritual cleansing prior to Thaipusam – which involves a strict regime of fasting, abstinence, and prayer. More information on the festival can be found at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple’s website.

Photographs from Thaipusam 2013

(Black and Whites)

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(In Colour)

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Photographs from previous years’ Thaipusam observations:

Thaipusam (2012)
Thaipusam (2011)
Thaipusam (2010)

A similar festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Panguni in the Sembawang area:

Panguni Uthiram (2012)
Panguni Uthiram (2011)





Thaipusam at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple

7 02 2012

Having photographed the procession of Kavadis on the streets over the last two Thaipusam celebrations in Singapore, as well as with Thaipusam falling on a work day this year, I decided to set off early this year to take a look at the preparations of the Kavadi bearers at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road at the break of day. The colourful Hindu festival during which ‘Kavadis‘ or burdens, some which involve piercing of various parts of the body, are borne by devotees, is one which captivated me as a child and one that still contiunes to fascinate me to this day. It can possibly be considered to be the last authentic religious festival that is still enacted on the streets in Singapore – albeit with some restrictions which give it less of an atmosphere than celebrations that take place in our northern neighbour Malaysia.





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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