Will Penangites get their annual Thaipusam procession?

FATE of the popular dual chariot procession in Penang that bears the statue of Lord Murugan during next year’s Thaipusam is still up in the air.

A much-anticipated event, procession of the over 100-year-old silver chariot – and more recently, the golden chariot – is highlight of the annual three-day Thaipusam celebration in the state.

However, there is a possibility that the festival might not get the go-ahead due to stringent COVID-19 movement control order (MCOs), in particular stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) pertaining to social distancing.

More details on the SOPs for the auspicious day will be out on the first week of January after discussion with the Health Department, National Security Council and the Royal Malaysia Police, according to Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk R S Mohan Shan.

As Thaipusam falls on the third of week of January next year, devotes are hoping for some indication of “yah or nay” by the first week of 2021 to make travel and accommodation arrangements.

“Whatever the decision, devotes must adhere to the SOPs and practice social distancing in any gathering,” Mohan told FocusM. “If the event is allowed, there will be limited number of attendees at any given time.”

His suggestion is to allow devotees who have already taken vows to proceed with fulfilling them.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) has advised against holding the annual Thaipusam festival on a large-scale in view of the presence of the COVID-19 virus in the community.

MMA president Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandy said it will be impossible to observe the SOPs with the huge crowd of devotees and members of the public who will throng the temples for the occasion.

“Surely, over a million people will attend the Thaipusam celebration (with reference to the Batu Caves temple) and crowd control could become impossible, thus endangering the health and safety of the people, especially the devotees,” he told Bernama.

Hindu devotees celebrate Thaipusam on the full moon day of the Tamil month of “Thai”. Next year, that date falls on January 28.

Every year, thousands of devotees will follow the chariots by foot along its route of about eight kilometres before it reaches the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple and Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga. – Dec 22, 2020

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