Thaipusam is celebrated at Thannirmalai Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in George Town. It is one of the main events in Penang. On the eve of Thaipusam, a silver chariot with the statue of Lord Muruga is led on a procession, accompanied by Chettiar kavadis or devotees, carrying peacock feathers.
The procession usually starts at 6.00am departing from Kovil Veddu (Temple House) at Market Street and travelling through Chulia Street, Victoria Street, Prangin Road Ghaut, C.Y. Choy Road, Magazine Road (KOMTAR), Datuk Keramat Road, Irving Road, Jalan Utama and Waterfall Road on its route.
It reaches the Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple at Waterfall Road at about midnight, culminating a 15-hour journey. On the eve day, coconuts are smashed on the roads before the chariot to symbolise the shattering of one’s ego in the pursuit of self-realization. In addition, devotees also make offerings of fruits, flowers and incense to the Lord Muruga in the Silver Chariot. On Thaipusam day, devotees undertake a pilgrimage from the Lorong Kulit Temple to the Thannirmalai Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple.
It is located high on a hill. Carrying kavadis can be an act of penance or fulfilment of a vow done to develop spirituality. The kavadis can take the form of Paal Kudam (milk pots) as offerings to god or in the form of physical endurance by piercing the cheeks, tongue, or skin on the body with hooks and Vel skewers. The Thannirmalai Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple can accommodate up to 700,000 devotees for the annual Thaipusam Festival. Devotees need to climb over 500 steps to reach the hilltop temple. This is more than the 272 steps at the famous Batu Caves (Kuala Lumpur).
Upon reaching the temple, devotees will fulfill their vows, offer thanksgiving prayers and penance to Lord Muruga.On the next day, the silver chariot with Lord Muruga makes a return trip to Kovil Veedu at Market Street from the Nattukottai Chettiar Murugan Temple .
The return trip from the Waterfall temple lasts from 6.00 pm until dawn the next day. It takes a different route back, passing through Waterfall Road, Gottlieb Road, Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Cantonment Road, Macalister Road, Anson Road, Burmah Road, Transfer Road, Sri Bahari Road, Penang Road, Campbell Street, Buckingham Street, Jalan Mesjid Kapitan Keling, Chulia Street, Queen Street, China Street, Beach Street and Market Street. On this day, the same activities that were carried out on the eve of Thaipusam are carried out again along the route of the procession.
During this three-day celebration, one can find over 100 beautifully decorated stalls erected along Western Road and Gottlieb Road. These stalls sell traditional Indian goods, souvenirs, decorative items and snacks and refreshments. Thunderous loud music, singing, dancing and the beating of drums can be seen and heard from afar throughout the festival. This is a festival of rich culture and deep tradition in Penang.
Date: 8th Feb 2017, Wed (TBC)
Location: Little India to Jalan Dato Keramat
The ceremonial worship of Hindu’s celebrated deity, Lord Muruga will begin with a silver chariot procession led by kavadis adorned with peacock features. The procession begins from Little India (6am) to the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple (ends at midnight).
Along the procession routes, coconuts are smashed onto the ground to fulfill sacred vows. The best place to catch the coconut smashing spectacle is on Jalan Dato Keramat, in front of Penang Times Square. Standby for the procession from 12noon onwards.
Date: 9th Feb 2017, Thurs (TBC)
Location: Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple to Waterfall Hilltop Temple
Religiously performed on Thaipusam Day, devotees will have their bodies pierced with hooks and spears as an act of penance. The piercing ceremony of the kavadi bearerswill take place at the Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple on Lorong Kulit (beside Rapid Penang office) from 3am onwards. The uphill journey to the new Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple (Waterfall Hilltop Temple) will begin right after. The best time to view the kavadis is from 3pm onwards. The final and bigger kavadi will climb up to the temple at 9.30pm.
Other devotees will also fullfil their vows by carrying Paal Kudam (milk pots) up to the Waterfall Hilltop Temple. The journey begins from Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple or the Shree Muniswarar Temple (at the junction of Jalan Utama, Jalan Kebun Bunga and Jalan Gottlieb).
For free refreshments and vegetarian food, visit one of the 130 festively decorated Thaneer Panthals (make shift stalls) along the pilgrimage route. More stalls are placed along Jalan Utama to Jalan Air Terjun (Waterfall Road).
The Day after Thaipusam
Date: 10th Feb 2017, Fri (TBC)
Location: Kovil Veedu temple house to Nattukottai Chettiar Temple
The Silver Chariot of Lord Muruga makes a return trip from the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple (6pm) to the Kovil Veedu temple house on Lebuh Penang via a different route. The chariot is expected to reach at dawn, on the next day accompanied by the coconut smashing ritual and offerings of fruits, flowers and incense on a Thaambalam (big silver plate).