Thaipusam festival to take place with strict measures; kavadis not allowed

The Thaipusam procession on Feb 8, 2020. Unlike previous years, there will be no foot procession in the Thaipusam festival next month.
The Thaipusam procession on Feb 8, 2020. Unlike previous years, there will be no foot procession in the Thaipusam festival next month.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Hindu devotees who wish to participate in the Thaipusam festival next month will have to abide by a host of stringent measures, including pre-booking time slots to enter the temple, and using only pre-prepared offerings.

Unlike previous years, there will be no foot procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road during the festival on Jan 28 and activities will only be conducted in and around the latter temple, announced the two temples and the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) on Thursday (Nov 10).

They said in a joint statement that these restrictions are necessary in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the decision to continue holding the festival was taken because of its historical significance.

During the festival, devotees typically fulfil their vows and carry paal kudams or milk pots, or kavadis, which are wooden or metal structures with milk offerings, into the Tank Road temple.

To prevent any potential outbreaks of Covid-19, organisers will ban all forms of kavadis for the upcoming festival. It is “impossible to maintain safe distancing” as a team is required to assemble and mount the kavadi on the carrier, said the organisers.

Kavadis that pierce the body -such as the tongue, cheeks, arms or legs - involve too close a contact between individuals, and go against safe distancing recommendations, said the organisers.

In addition, devotees who wish to carry paal kudams into the temple can only use pots that are pre-prepared by the temple.

The Sri Thendayuthapani Temple will also deny entry to devotees who have not pre-booked timeslots and groups carrying musical instruments or any form of amplification device.

Devotees will not be allowed to gather outside the temple, and must follow a pathway assigned by the temple after they finish giving their offerings and prayers.

"All of the above measures are carried out for the safety and well-being of the devotees and their families," said the statement, adding that organisers intend to allow as many devotees as possible without breaching safe management measures.

The elderly, the young and those who are physically challenged are encouraged to pray from home instead, using a live stream of the Thaipusam prayer session.

Mr A. Sunderason, 32, said he would still head down to the temple on Thaipusam to pray and give offerings, as he believes the measures would help keep devotees safe.

“I think things will be a lot safer (with these measures), and I think people will manage to get their basic duty of praying done and get some enjoyment out of it,” said Mr Sunderason, who runs a landscaping company.

However, others were disappointed that the festival will be a much muted affair without music and the usual crowd.

Mr Navind Kumar, 30, said he would prefer to celebrate the festival at home, given that the atmosphere at the temple would be vastly different.

“Maybe the Government can consider allowing bigger groups to gather so that more of us can celebrate the festival together,” said Mr Navind, who owns a cleaning firm.

Devotees can make their online bookings on the Sri Thendayuthapani website from Jan 3 next year, and more details will be provided closer to the event.