Thaipusam event sees high turnout despite coronavirus concerns

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran applying holy ash on a devotee's forehead as a symbol of protection against evil forces. Above: A kavadi-bearer at the start of the Thaipusam procession at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serango
A kavadi is a structure made of steel or wood carried by devotees to honour and pay penance to Hindu deity Murugan. ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran applying holy ash on a devotee's forehead as a symbol of protection against evil forces. Above: A kavadi-bearer at the start of the Thaipusam procession at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serango
Thermal scanners at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple were used for monitoring the body temperature of participants and the crowd in the light of the coronavirus outbreak. ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran applying holy ash on a devotee's forehead as a symbol of protection against evil forces. Above: A kavadi-bearer at the start of the Thaipusam procession at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serango
A devotee pulling a chariot with ropes tied to piercings on his back during the procession.ST PHOTOS: KELVIN CHNG
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran applying holy ash on a devotee's forehead as a symbol of protection against evil forces. Above: A kavadi-bearer at the start of the Thaipusam procession at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serango
Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran applying holy ash on a devotee's forehead as a symbol of protection against evil forces. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

Annual religious procession proceeds as usual with stepped-up precautionary measures

Stepped-up precautionary measures in the light of the coronavirus outbreak did little to dampen the fervour of thousands of Hindu devotees, who turned out to seek blessings and fulfil their vows at this year's Thaipusam festival.

The religious procession went on as usual, drawing some 11,500 devotees - the highest participation rate since 2013, in part helped by Thaipusam falling on a weekend. It began at 11.30pm on Friday and ended yesterday at 11.30pm.

To the beats of drums and music, devotees carried milk pots as offerings or bore kavadis - structures of steel or wood - with sharp body piercings, accompanied by family and friends walking alongside them.

The annual procession was one of the first large-scale events to go ahead after Singapore raised its alert level from code yellow to code orange on Friday in response to the outbreak of the virus which originated in Wuhan, China.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who was guest of honour at this year's celebration, joined devotees at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road in the morning yesterday before proceeding to the end point, the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road. Commenting on whether to continue with large-scale events, he spoke of the need to exercise judgment.

"We have to make an assessment for each of the activities, whether it is indoor, whether it is outdoor," he said. "It is not so much how many people are involved, but how are the people involved in those activities."

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran told reporters separately that while organisers had to put in place additional measures, devotees took them in their stride.

"That speaks well (that) our community has been responding in a calm way, responding to the advice being given," he said. "That is the spirit that we want to continue to emphasise."

Face masks were a rare sight at the event, with some onlooking tourists donning them.

 

Aircraft technician R. Subramaniyam, 54, who carried the kavadi for the 25th year, said he followed the precautions advised by the organisers. "I took my temperature and checked that my family members did not have fever or cough," he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 09, 2020, with the headline 'Thaipusam event sees high turnout despite coronavirus concerns'. Print Edition | Subscribe