Hindu Endowments Board to continue engaging authorities in reviewing Thaipusam rules

Devotees carrying milk pots over their heads during Thaipusam on Feb 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Devotees carrying milk pots over their heads during Thaipusam on Feb 3, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - The Hindu Endowments Board said it will continue to engage the authorities in reviewing the rules for the annual Thaipusam procession.

Such engagement had resulted in the relaxation of rules in 2011 when the singing of religious hymns along the procession route was allowed, its chairman R Jayachandran said in a statement on Saturday.

"Our Board values the views of Hindus and other stakeholders in our review of our services. Those who wish to give their feedback may write or email us, or post them on our Facebook," said the statement.

Some have questioned the ban on playing music at Thaipusam after a scuffle broke out during the procession last Tuesday.

The incident, which was captured in videos that were posted online, occurred after police asked a set of drummers to stop playing at the junction of Serangoon Road and Desker Road. Three men, who were part of a group which hired a different set of drummers, were charged in court on Saturday with disorderly behaviour and attacking police officers.

In his statement, Mr Jayachandran also pointed out that the cost of organising the festival has been increasing, even though fees had remained the same over the past five years.

"The comfort, safety and security of Thaipusam participants are our priority, and we invest heavily in the infrastructure for the festival," he said.

Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran explained last Thursday that the ban on musical instruments applies to all foot processions, including religious processions. The ban, which has been in effect since 1973, was introduced because of fights between competing musicians which caused disruption to the procession and the devotees.

Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, in a Facebook post last Friday, said that Hindus should not feel they are being discriminated against because of the ban. They are the only religious group allowed to hold religious foot processions on major roads, he said.

dshea@sph.com.sg