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Some 9,000 devotees expected to take part in procession to mark Thaipusam today

Devotees walk out of Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple carrying kavadis at this year's Thaipusam festival. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN
Devotees walk out of Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple carrying kavadis at this year's Thaipusam festival. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

It was the first time in 11 years that devotee Gopal Ram was carrying a kavadi.

The 35-year-old communications executive made a vow to do so last year when his mother was diagnosed with cancer.

On Friday morning, he carried a colourful, 45kg wood-and-metal structure attached to him via spikes pierced into his body and walked 4.5km in a Thaipusam festival procession to fulfil his vow. It was his seventh time carrying a kavadi.

"Once the weight sinks in, it's a battle between mind and belief. It's mind over matter," he said, adding that his mother was "a lot better" now.

Mr Gopal was one of 500 Hindu devotees who carried kavadis at Friday's Thaipusam festival to honour the victory of Hindu deity Lord Murugan over the demon hordes.

The procession started at about 11.30pm on Thursday night and ends at midnight on Friday. The first batch of devotees - there are 9,000 in total - left the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road and made their way to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road on foot. Many carried pots of milk, traditionally poured over Lord Murugan's statue as an offering.

Mr S Iswaran, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry, visited both temples on Friday morning.

"(Thaipusam) is not just a Hindu or Indian event. If you look at the involvement of volunteers, we have volunteers from all walks of life," he said.

"(In Singapore) we come together as a community across different ethnic and religious groups in order to celebrate a special custom or culture. I think we should continue to be committed to that and celebrate that."

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