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The true significance of Thaipusam

P Ramasamy Free Malaysia Today Sat, February 8, 2020

Thaipusam at Batu  Caves, Malaysia

BATU CAVES, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Thaipusam – the religious festival of the worship of Lord Muruga, the legendary Tamil god, the son of Parvati, and the slayer of the demon king, Soorapathman – is the most important Tamil religious festival in the world.

It is celebrated on a large scale in Tamil Nadu, India, and among the Tamil diaspora worldwide, particularly in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Reunion Island, Mauritius and places where there is a significant number of Tamils.

On Reunion Island, Tamil identity is maintained not by the Tamil language but the worship of Lord Muruga.

Thaipusam, celebrated in the calendar month of Thai and in accordance with the star Pusam, is a Hindu religious festival but is also uniquely Tamil in origin.

This is why Tamils pay such importance to Thaipusam rather than Deepavali that extends beyond the Tamils.

While Thaipusam centres on the worship of Lord Muruga, the event itself has an important bearing on the identity of Tamils, their culture, customs and traditions.

The festival could have predated the arrival of the Aryans, during the heyday of the Dravidian civilisation in the Indian sub-continent thousands of years back.

Notwithstanding Thaipusam’s overtly religious manifestation, its undercurrents of Tamil identity cannot be underrated.

In places where Tamils are discriminated against, Thaipusam takes on the form of expression of Tamil identity, and assertion of Tamil culture and language.

In Malaysia, Thaipusam is not just another religious festival but one where Tamils seek to assert and project their identity – who they are, their traditions, history and who their ultimate God is.

Thaipusam is not a mere Hindu religious festival but a Tamil Hindu religious festival. More than this, it is an identity marker for Tamils.

The non-Tamil Hindus might consider it a religious occasion but they might not pay attention to it that much.

The fervour and enthusiasm for Thaipusam in Malaysia and generally in countries other than Tamil Nadu are much more intense and passionate.

It might be an expression of religious assertion but integrally related to the larger assertion of Tamil identity of culture, tradition, language and others.

In the context of Tamil identity, Lord Muruga is not merely a Hindu god, but for the Tamils, their god and protector.

The intense worship, the self-mortification in the form of kavadis, fasting and others are to strike a powerful civilisation, historical and cultural bond with their saviour and protector, Lord Muruga, from time immemorial.

Therefore, Thaipusam’s special meaning for Tamils must be seen not in the form of worship or just as a Hindu religious festival. It is much more than that. In a nutshell, it is an everlasting identity maker of global Tamils.

P Ramasamy is deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

From: FREE MALAYSIA TODAY (MALAYSIA) Sat, February 8, 2020

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