More music along Thaipusam route this year

Devotees carrying kavadis during the Thaipusam festival in Singapore on Jan 24, 2016.
Devotees carrying kavadis during the Thaipusam festival in Singapore on Jan 24, 2016.PHOTO: TAMIL MURASU

SINGAPORE - The number of points at which recorded music will be broadcast along the 4km Thaipusam procession route has been increased from nine to 23 for the Hindu festival which takes place on Feb 9 this year.

This is on top of three stages where live music will play.

On Monday (Jan 23), the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB), which organises the event, said that since there will be more music this time around, participants should not engage private musicians or bring their own musical instruments.

In a media release, the statutory board said it "appeals to all participants to observe the rules", adding that anyone found to have breached them will be subjected to police investigations and may also face restrictions on participating in future processions.

HEB further highlighted a few issues from last year's edition.

The board said that26 kavadi bearers and a couple of participants carrying milk pots had left the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple later than the cut-off point at 7pm "which delayed the process and caused considerable public inconvenience".

Some participants had also deliberately brought along musical instruments to play along the route which is against the law.

This year, no one will be allowed to join the procession after 7pm, said the HEB, adding that kavadi-bearers who had signed up for this year's festival, as well as other potential participants, were briefed by the police last week.

The annual festival, which usually takes place over about 24 hours, is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power.

Devotees seek blessings and fulfil their vows by carrying milk pots as offerings. Many also carry kavadi - structures of steel and wood - and pierce their bodies with steel rods, among other things.

Last year, the authorities gave the green light for live music to be played at the procession - it was the first time in 42 years and it took place across three live stages.

The playing of musical instruments on the streets during Thaipusam had been banned due to past fights between competing groups, which disrupted the procession.

During Thaipusam in February 2015, three men were arrested for disorderly behaviour after another group was told to stop the use of traditional drums by organisers.

The rule was relaxed after HEB conducted 10 feedback sessions with 116 members of the Hindu community. All said music was integral to the festival, with 65 per cent wanting traditional Indian instruments to be part of it. Some people also suggested that live music be allowed at strategic locations along the route.

The Thaipusam procession is one of three Hindu festivals exempted from a ban on religious foot processions, introduced in the wake of race riots here in 1964. The other two are the Panguni Uthiram and Thimiti (fire-walking) festivals.

This year's Thaipusam procession will cost more than $250,000 to organise. HEB and co-organisers the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple and the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, are deploying about 800 personnel to ensure the event runs smoothly.

HEB said: "Thaipusam is of deep religious significance to the Hindu community. The HEB seeks the support and cooperation of all participants to preserve the sanctity and decorum of the Thaipusam festival."