Surprising that India does not have a National Holiday for 08th Fabuary? However, it is a national holiday in Srilanka, Malaysia, Mauritius and Fiji with respect to the Thaipusam Festival - Murugan's Birthday. In India, it is celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community on the full moon day of the Tamil month of 'Thai', hence the origin of the name and where Pusam is the star name which combinates to 'ThaiPusam' also spelled as 'ThaiPoosam'. This particular star 'Pusam' is at it's highest point on the day of the festival. In India, the Palani Sri Dhandayuthapani temple hosts a 10-day Festival (Brahmotsavam) held during ThaiPusam. Thirukalyanam (Celestial Wedding) will be celebrated on the day prior to ThaiPusam. It is said that Lord Muthukumaraswamy will bless the devotees in Thanga Guthirai Vahanam (Golden Horse), Periya Thanga Mayil Vahanam (Golden Peacock, Theppotsavam (Float Festival) during this course of the 10-day festival. A multitude of temples in South India will hold various versions of the festivals.
The festival ThaiPusam replicates the moment where Goddess Parvati gave Lord Murugan the divine Vel (Spear) so that he could overcome the three evil demons - Soorapadman, Singhamugan and Taraksura which represent the forces of hatred, greed and arrogance. Although, it is commonly believed it is Lord Murugan's birthday, the ultimate motive of the ThaiPusam festival is for one to pray to God to receive grace and destroy bad traits. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva initiated the 'Ananda Tandava' cosmic dance in the 'Nataraj' form. Although the festival of ThaiPusam is celebrated in Shiva and Muruga temples, it has become more fittingly affiliated with Lord Muruga.
The festival takes place with colourful processions and women carrying kudam with grains, milk, fruits or pots of plants on their heads and walking over a distance.
The festival also showcases ''Kavadi attam'' ( Burden Dance ) which requires the devotees to follow a number of restrictions which are to follow complete celibacy, consumption of only 'satvik' food(Fresh organic vegetarian food) once a day and focussing one's thoughts to God, all of which must be done for 48 days prior to the festival. The devotees are also to carry 'burdens' along the way as part of the Kavadi attam. The sacred ritual of body piercing by the devotees through their tongue or cheeks with small skewers representing the Vel is tremendously popular whilst carrying a pot of milk. This ritual is followed because of the belief that one must pay for their sins in order to fulfil their desires. Severe penance over Routine issues, right?
Kavadi attam is ardently famous among the devotees that it also made the International community follow it like dyed-in-the-wool for attaining divine blessings through the severe restrictions that are divinely followed. Devotees also make offerings of yellow or orange fruits which are supposed to be Lord Murugan's preferred colors.
Worshipping the Lord Murugan is meant to easing the effects of bad karma, desist wrongdoings and making life all the more positive which makes this festival be considered as an icon of purification.
Thaipusam Date: Saturday, 8 February, 2020