Photo via Penang Events
The Penang state government has officially announced that the annual Thaipusam celebrations there will not take place this year, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Devotees have been told that they are not allowed to go to the temples during Thaipusam from January 27th to 29th, and that they must stay home and conduct prayers.
Of course, this also means there will be no mass head shaving ceremony, chariot procession, breaking of coconuts, panthal stalls, distribution of free food, kavadi bearers and paal kudam (milk pot kavadi).
Deputy Chief Minister II P. Ramasamy said the decision was jointly made with the Penang Hindu Endowment Board, Unity Department, Health Department, Penang Security Council and police, to curb the spread of COVID-19.
“We have been told that the situation is very serious so we must control it from spreading. We do not want a Thaipusam cluster. We do not want people to come out and crowd the temples so it is better that we do not allow them to go to the temple at all during the three day celebrations,” he said.
Ramasamy added that the National Security Council (NSC) has only allowed 24 Hindu temples nationwide to conduct Thaipusam prayers and ceremonies, and so temple committees will need to find ways to broadcast the prayer ceremonies online.
Traditionally, Thaipusam in Penang is celebrated on a large scale with two chariots, a silver one and a gold one, making their way through the streets of George Town to the Waterfall Hill Temple in a slow procession while devotees make offerings and break coconuts along their paths.
This is the first time the celebrations have been cancelled in over a century.
by Kyle Roshen Jacob