Thaipusam or Thaipoosam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February).
The festival generally lasts for 2 days. On the eve, a chariot procession bearing a statue of the Lord Murugan begins from Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (map) at Tank Road to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple (map) at Keong Saik Road.
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The Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning. The first batch of devotees carry milk pots and wooden kavadis. Some pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a wooden kavadi decorated with flowers and peacock feathers balanced on their shoulders. Other devotees carry spiked kavadis that require elaborate preparation.
The *Kavadi Attam (“kavadi dance”) is a ceremonial act of devotional sacrifice through dance, food offerings, and bodily self-mortification.
‘Kavadi’ literally means ‘sacrifice at every step’ in Tamil, and indeed, this proves to be the case if you take a closer look. A semi-circular steel or wooden frame, a ‘kavadi’ is meant to be hoisted by a devotee for the length of the procession. It has bars for support on the shoulders, is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers, and some have spikes that pierce the body. It can top out at 40 kilogrammes and reach a height of four metres.
Of course, not all who join the Thaipusam procession commit to such extremes—many kavadis have no spikes and women often simply carry a pot of milk, an offering which symbolises abundance and fertility to the Hindus.
You can witness the spectacle anywhere between Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road and Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road, as some lanes are closed to traffic for the occasion.
Devotees will walk the four kilometres, along with relatives and friends who chant hymns and prayers to support and encourage them.