Malaysia is a country with multilingual, multi-ethnic, and multicultural societiesand is located in Southeast Asia. Their constitution grants freedom of religion in Malaysia to all races. Hence, there are a lot of religions from different races, such as Islam, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Confucianism and Taoism (Means, 1978). The Indian community is the third largest community Malaysia. Being the third largest race in Malaysia, Hindu culture is an integral part of Malaysian society. Every year, the Hindus will celebrate the Thaipusam Festival and it has been attracting tens of thousands of global tourists besides almost a million of the local Hindus coming for this event. Thaipusam is a celebration dedicated to the Hindu’s deity Lord Murugan.
(The Hindu festival of Thaipusam, 2017)
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is about faith, endurance and repentance, it was always celebrated in Malaysia at the end of January or beginning of February and is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai in the Hindu calendar. This has been celebrated since 1800s in Malaysia and was brought over by the Indian settlers who came to work in the rubber plantations. This is a vibrant, colourful, happy and devout activities that can last 3 to 4 days. It usually celebrates on a grand scale at Batu Caves, in Kuala Lumpur, besides in other smaller cities.(Bbc.co.uk, 2017).
Video: MUST SEE HINDU FESTIVAL Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur [ Malaysia 2017 ]
Thaipusam Festival is a time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to repent, fulfilled promises and show their lofty regards to their Gods, Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva. (Bbc.co.uk, 2017).
This Hindu festival is devoted to the memory of Hindu gods, son of Shiva 17th and son of goddess Sakti and was created during the war between the Azuras and the Dewas. According to the book “Skanda Purana” in Indian mythology, the Devas were defeated several times by the Azuras and in despair, they appealed and devoted completely toShiva for a powerful leader who can lead them to defeat the Azuras. Due to their request, Lord Shiva sent his son to conquer the Asuras. Lord Murugan, also known as Lord Subramanyais the Hindu God of Warand had lead the Devas to defeat the Azuras. Therefore, in the era of Thaipusam, the image of Lord Subramanya was always decorated in gold colour with a golden spearto his followers in a silver chariot. It is therefore grateful to some who swear and promise to prove to Lord Subramanya that they sacrificed themselves during Thaipusam holiday. (National Library Board, 2017)
This is a colourful event, where the women wear jasmine flowers in their hair, orange and yellow, as they think it is the colours of Lord Murugan.
(Go With Bo!, 2017)
There are many cruel rituals of the believers, for example, shaving their heads, doing rituals, piercing their tongues with silver needles, cheeks, backs and etc. One of the most prominent ways is to embed countless small bright hooks on their backs. To show faith in the gods faith, and pray for God’s blessing.
(Travelogues from Remote Lands, 2017)
Reflection and conclusion
As above author mentioned, the Thaipusam Festival is meaningful to the Hindus and contributed to the world’s intangible cultural heritage, however, some of the celebrations are cruel and in-humanitarian, as they are too bloodied and violent, not suitable for children to participate in and watch. Refer to the 11th week’s lecture “Heritage and Human Rights”, this kind of heritage may has the potential to harm some groups, such as women and children. Should we put the Thaipusam Festival into list of world-class Intangible Cultural Heritage? This is a question worth reflecting on in the future.
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Bbc.co.uk. (2017). BBC – Religions – Hinduism: Thaipusam. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/hinduism/holydays/thaipusam.shtml [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].
Means, G. P. (1978). Public policy toward religion in Malaysia. Pacific Affairs, 51(3), 384-405.
National Library Board, S. (2017). Thaipusam | Infopedia. [online] Eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Available at: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_760_2004-12-27.html [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].
Malaysia.fang.com. (2017). Cite a Website – Cite This For Me. [online] Available at: http://malaysia.fang.com/news/24374599.htm [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam, i. (2017). The Hindu festival of Thaipusam, in pics. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/malaysia/11387099/The-Hindu-festival-of-Thaipusam-in-pics.html?frame=3186070 [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].
Travelogues from Remote Lands. (2017). Good vs Evil: Malaysia’s Thaipusam Festival – Travelogues from Remote Lands. [online] Available at: https://www.remotelands.com/travelogues/good-vs-evil-malaysias-thaipusam-festival/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].
Go With Bo!. (2017). Thaipusam Festival – more than just a ritual of body piercing. [online] Available at: http://www.bojantercon.com/2013/01/27/thaipusam-festival-more-than-just-a-ritual-of-body-piercing/ [Accessed 29 Nov. 2017].