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Monday, May 23, 2011

Thaipusam festival, the 'sardination'

Note: Wah, it was 3 months ago when I wrote Kavadi, the most distinct feature of Thaipusam!

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So there was a college trip to Batu Caves during Thaipusam, for the purpose of writing reports for World Religion subject. I had already taken WR the semester before, yet I joined the trip because I basically knew nothing about Thaipusam other than "piercing all over the body", as shown in primary school textbooks. (shame on me? :/)

Our college bus stopped in an alley. Beside where the bus stopped, there was a gang of shirtless Indian young men; their hair were all punky. They were shouting, blowing horns, laughing, and such scene had already scared me a little because I wasn't sure whether they're just high or on drug. When we came out of the valley, we were horned by a motorcycle entering the valley, the Indian rider shouted at us 'Tepilah!'--there marked the starting point of we budak Cina getting rude treatment from the Hindus. Yes, I felt fear, 'cuz we're a bunch of unwelcome minority there and some scenes of racial riot popped up in my mind. However, it wasn't too hard to understand how the Hindus felt when the place was so crowded, the weather so hot, and we who had no business there occupied 'their' space and blocked their way just to... er, witness the festival.

We followed the crowd to the highway, across the highway (yes, across the highway, and this is only in Malaysia), towards Batu Caves.


“the gang of striped shirts”

Indian woman selling jeweleries


We reached the entrance after around 10 minutes walk...

... and the 'sardination' process started. Lasted about 30 minutes before we reached the staircase.

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While being squeezed and pushed frontward, we observed carefully
1. the stalls at the left and right sides of the open area between the entrance and the staircase
2. clothings of the Hindus'
3. Kavadis
4. facial expression of those who carried Kavadi
5. facial expression of people protecting the ones carrying Kavadi
6. the gigantic poster of our current Prime Minister, Najib

Along the 'sardination', we heard two words very frequently. The first was 'Tepilah!', which is a Malay word meaning similarly to 'Off my way lah!'. This word was shouted to us by people around those who carried kavadi. After they shouted the word, people around us would turn and look at us with annoyance near to disgust on their faces. The second was a magical word which a majority of Hindus there was shouting repeatedly, sounded like something between 'will, will' and 'well, well' and the exact word was actually 'vel, vel'.

Vel is a spear given by Parvati to God Murugan, so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam. There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan's birthday, but nope, Thaipusam festival is actually celebrated to commemorate this vel-giveaway occasion. They shouted 'vel, vel' to lift spirits.

The gigantic idol of God Murugan with his vel





Temple near the staircase



Note the 'Strictly No Entry' sign. But I saw people inside O_O


All the gods are actually from the same 3 gods: Brahma, Vishnu and Siva; all these 3 gods are from the same 1 god, or the formless transcendental immanent Divine, the "Brahman".

There were policemen and members of St. John Ambulance near the staircase, and we understood why they were there when we looked up...


... looked way more scary than viewed from far!

5 of us instantly held hands/clung onto each other. We went up the staircase, milk split from above dropped onto us, the staircase was wet because of the split milk, the air smelt like a mixture of milk + flowers + perfume + sweat, and we did not have time to stop and wonder, just kept moving and moving... God knows how challenging it was to watch my steps + avoid to bump into people around + hold tightly my camera with one hand, the hand of my friend's with another + shuttle quickly and accurately!


halfway the staircase, another temple


Somehow I managed to turn behind and snap a picture... (I forgot that I could capture this when going down the staircase later -.-)



Look at the crowd! Look how far we had squeezed through!

What's inside the cave? I shall reveal in my next post ;)


Ciao.
Crazenne

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