Thaipusam Eve

“Surrender to India”

Recently I was talking with an Indian friend who told me, if you want to visit India, you have to surrender to India.

Georgetown, Malaysia, has its “Little India” which organises the Thaipusam celebrations.

Thaipusam is a Hindi festival mostly celebrated by the Tamil community.

It is celebrated in the Tamil month of “Thai” whilst “pusam” refers to a star which is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates both the birth of the Hindu god Muragan, son of Shiva and Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (lance) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. You hear the devotees chanting “Vel, Vel”. Source: Penang Tourist Office brochure.

On the eve of the celebrations I walked into Little India to have dinner.

The atmosphere was already warming up. Long queues of Hindus waiting to enter the main temple to pray. Women in beautiful saris everywhere.

Gold shops were full of people. They have elaborate, chrome-plated grills to prevent theft. They buy and sell more elaborate jewelry. Shops selling smaller gold jewelry were packed.

As I wandered through the streets I was drawn to an open-fronted store with men in long white sarongs at the entrance.

“Come in, share our food!” I approached to see better. “Should I take my shoes off?” I asked. “No, it doesn’t matter.” A magnet of hospitality drew me in.

Surrender to India.

As I sat on a stool people smiled at me, made small conversation, asked me where I am from, gave me more special food, complimented me on my skill eating with my fingers. I felt welcome.

Surrender to India.

After my meal, I walked back to Chettiar Temple where the silver chariot was outside waiting to be drawn through town tomorrow.

A dance of two big puppets (one person inside each) and a fire-eater was enacted. The musicans played drums and cymbals to rythms I do not know, but I lost myself in them.

Surrender to India.

Back near my guest-house was a display of Chinese Dragon dancers. I asked somone, “Why are the Chinese celebrating Thaipusam?”.

” They worship some of the same gods, and in Malaysia we are united.” Great answer.

They performed different dances with different dragons. The last was a long, thin, yellow and green dragon manipulated by seven men. The dragon whirled in circles and then undulated so the middle five men had to jump over the body.

They played drums. Then they were gone.

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