SINGAPORE - Solar and lunar eclipses usually draw many admirers eager to view the phenomenon, but there is a lesser known impact when they fall on the same day as the annual Thaipusam procession.
As a result of a total lunar eclipse taking place on Jan 31 next year from 6.51pm to 11.11pm, the approximately 24-hour procession will be cut short by 5.5 hours as Hindu temples have to be shuttered when darkness comes into play.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes directly between the Sun and Moon, blocking sunlight from reaching the Moon and causing the Earth's shadow to cover the Moon entirely.
Hindus consider eclipses inauspicious because "light and energy from the sun or moon are blocked and cannot reach the earth". Temples close for the duration the astronomical event can be witnessed in Singapore.
It is an "unprecedented event" where the Thaipusam procession will be cut short in Singapore, said president of the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple Mr AR Ramasamy at a media briefing on Friday (Sept 22).
He urged the 10,000 or so devotees who will be carrying paal kudams or milk pots to start at night on Jan 30, and the 600 or so kavadi-bearers to begin their journey from 2am on Jan 31.
The procession will start at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and end at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road.
The cut-off time to begin the journey is 1pm while the doors of the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple will shut by 6.30pm. Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple's chief priest KS Vasudevan added that all prayers and food distribution will wrap up by then.
Kavadi-bearers typically take four hours to complete their journey.
Mr Ramasamy said: "We humbly encourage them to co-operate and to come down early to fulfil their vows."
Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Subramaniam, also known as Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil. Devotees seek blessings and fulfil their vows by carrying milk pots as offerings, or kavadis - structures of steel and wood - with sharp body piercings.
The annual Thaipusam festival usually attracts about 50,000 to 60,000 people, including thousands of tourists, who observe the festival along a 4km route. Hundreds of volunteers are usually roped in to help run the event.
The organisers will hold briefings for kavadi-bearers at 7pm on Oct 1 and Oct 4. Ticket sales for participants carrying the paal kudams and kavadis will go on sale from Dec 14 at both temples.
More information can be found at www.thaipusam.sg.