Hindu Endowments Board issues statement over ban on playing music at Thaipusam

Devotees in a procession before entering Sri Thendayuthapani Temple - the end point - on Tank Road. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN
Devotees in a procession before entering Sri Thendayuthapani Temple - the end point - on Tank Road. -- ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) on Friday issued a statement over the ban on playing music at Thaipusam processions.

Some have questioned the ban following the arrest of three Singaporean men involved in a scuffle on Feb 3, after organisers asked a group to stop playing drums at the junction of Serangoon and Desker roads as it was not allowed under the event's police permit.

The incident was captured on videos that were posted online. Three men, who were part of a group which hired a different set of drummers, have been charged in court with disorderly behaviour and attacking police officers.

The HEB said that the prohibition on musical instruments during religious processions has been applied to Thaipusam since 1973.

"This was to ensure the orderly conduct of the religious foot procession through a highly urbanised and densely populated area. Over the years, the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) has received complaints of disamenities and disorderly behaviour that impede the progress of devotees in the procession and detract from the spiritual experience," it said in the press release.

The HEB said it has also represented the community's interests by requesting the authorities to adjust the rules to take into consideration the importance of music to Hindus' religious rites.

It said that music has always been allowed at both the start (Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple) and end (Sri Thendayuthapani Temple) points.

"Arising from our engagement with the authorities, the singing of religious hymns is allowed en route. In 2012, in response to our appeal, the authorities allowed static music points along the procession route for the broadcast of religious hymns," the press release added.

The HEB said contrary to public misperception, the HEB has never made any representation to the authorities to tighten the conditions for the procession. 

"There will always be challenges in managing a procession of the scale of Thaipusam. However, the HEB does not believe that it is necessary to tighten the conditions for the procession," it said.

Read the full text of of the HEB's statement here.