Thaipusam 2008 at Ipoh

I wanted to publish this post last week itself. But then thanks to the 'super fast Internet connection' in my room! :# I only managed to get online since Monday. Now here's why this year's Thaipusam was a little different for me. As I have told you earlier, I was in Ipoh last Wednesday.

It was evening of Thaipusam eve. I was already in Kallumalai Sri Subramaniar temple. It was my first time being in Ipoh celebrating Thaipusam next to the limestone hills. Several roads were temporarily closed for the three-day celebration. No much crowd at the temple but I can see people started to drop by the temple bringing in paal kudams (read=milk pots) to fulfill their vows as early as 4pm. As usual, food stalls were set up around the temple compound. No kavadis at that hour. I was told that devotees will start carrying kavadis after midnight. Besides all those usual scenarios, something else marked a little bit of difference in this year's celebration in Ipoh. The was a hunger strike organized by Makkal Sakthi and civil rights organization including ACID of Perak, right next to the temple. Banners were seen high up on the cave walls urging the government to abolish ISA as it is against human rights. Around 30 people hunger striked in a peaceful way against the arrest of H5 leaders recently. Also seen on the spot was YB Kulasegaran. I managed to spend some time with him and members of ACID discussing certain issues involving political agendas and the welfare of Indian community in Malaysia.

It was already late in the evening. Around 7pm I would say when I left Kallumalai temple heading towards Ipoh Mariamman temple to escort the chariot. The chariot was already outside the temple, decorated with colorful lights and ready to move. A huge crowd of people were already gathered before me to join the 7km walk escorting the chariot. Police officers seen on duty making sure of road closures and traffic controls are in order. A big FRU truck seen behind the chariot which then followed it all the way until the end of journey. I don't know if it was a routine in Ipoh but that was the first time I'm seeing an FRU truck following a chariot. The walk was a peaceful one with no unexpected incidents happened and the police officers did a wonderful job assisting the temple management in making sure there were no problems in terms of traffic. After almost four hours, the chariot reached Ipoh Kallumalai Sri Subramaniar Temple marking the end of its journey. Prayers we conducted after the chariot arrived. For now, the crowd has grown bigger than what I saw earlier in the evening.

Food stalls were pack with people trying to fit in for their late dinner. Hunger strike was still going on next to the temple. People started to gather around their tents to check out what was actually going on. I could see some of them flipping through the brochures distributed by ACID and wearing "mansuhkan ISA" badge given away by Makkal Sakthi organization. There was also a projector screen set up down the cave showing the previous parliment debates and Hindraf Rally spillovers along with some temple demolishment highlights. It attracted more and more people to gather around the area. After sometime around 50 police personals came in to monitor the crowd as it was growing bigger by minute. I would roughly quote the figure to be around 150 around half past eleven. It was sharp at midnight when I left the temple. I saw more and more devotees keep on entering the temple holding paal kudams in their hands to fulfill their vows. The queue of people carrying paal kudams waiting their turn o fulfill their vows were stretched up to 2km outside the temple when I left the place. Yeah.. that's long!

23rd January. It was 7am on Thaipusam when I stepped into Maha Mariamman Temple of Ipoh. A big number of photographers were scattered around the temple in early hours of morning not wanting to miss their chance to snap some of the colorful moments of Thaipusam. I was there to escort my friend who carried a Kavadi. After usual rituals and prayers we were set to go heading towards Kallumalai. Yes, another 7km walk early in the morning. But it was shorter in time compared to the day before. It took us two hours to reach the destination at 10am. People kept on coming to temple carrying beautiful kavadis and paal kudams without bothering the hot sun. There were a huge number of people at the temple to offer their special prayers to Lord Muruga. The crowd started to disperse around noon. I spotted YB Lim Kit Siang at the scene heading towards the temple. After some time, I could hear his voice on the speakers delivering his speech supporting the hunger strike urging the abolishment of ISA. I spent a few hours being at temple, simply enjoying beautiful dances by colorful kavadis before making a move around late afternoon. That's about this year's Thaipusam. It was actually double the fun than my previous one.

Internet connection still sucks. I couldn't upload any of my pics at the moment. :( Meanwhile, check out some of the beautiful pics of Ipoh Thaipusam, here.

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