Thaipusam is celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community on the full moon day of Thai month of Tamil calendar. It is one of the largest celebrated Tamil festivals. Tamil people all across the world celebrate this festival in large scale. ‘Thai’ is a Tamil month and Poosam is a star in Tamil calendar. Thaipoosam is a national holiday in many countries. Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius also celebrate Thaipoosam along with South India.
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According to some beliefs, Thaipoosam is the birthday of Lord Muruga, son of Lord Siva and Parvathi. As per Hindu mythology, Parvathi gave her son Murugan the Vel or Spear to crush the wicked devil Soorapadman. The Devas and Asuras fought frequently. But every time, the Asuras would win over Devas. The Devas were very sad and requested Lord Shiva to support them in the war. The Devas asked for a leader who can help them to defeat Asura. Lord Shiva created a warrior called Skanda from his divine power and he defeated the Asuras. That day is celebrated as Thaipoosam. The devotees pray to the god Murugan to give them grace so that all evils will get demolished.
Kavadi Attam or Dancing with load
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Kavadi Attam is an offering or celebration for Thaipoosam. The preparations for Kavadi start 48 days before the main event. Those interested in participating in the festival offerings need to take 48 days’ fasting. They have to follow a disciplined lifestyle with prayers, away from family life. On the day of Thaipoosam, they shave their head and move towards the temple. Then they pick the Kavadi and start dancing for long hours.
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There are 5 types of Kavadi used for Thaipoosam festival. The simplest form of Kavadi is a small pot of milk which is for small girls and boys. It is known as Pal Kavadi or Milk Kavadi. They carry this on their head and move along with the procession dancing all the way. The 2nd type of Kavadi is Mayil Kavadi or Shadal Kavadi. This Kavadi is decorated with features of Peacock with a border of silk. This is tallest Kavadi which stands more than 2 meters tall.
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The 3rd one is Thol Kavadi which is small in size and easy to carry. It will be mostly made of wood in a curved shape with flowers and small peacock decorations. Since peacock is considered as Murugan’s vehicle, it is given a lot of importance in the festival. The 4th one is the Alavu Kavadi which is a 3-feet long spear or Vel. Devotees slice this to their tongue and cheeks. The last one is Koodam Mulle which is hanging a small pot of milk to their body by piecing.
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As a part of Thaipoosam festival, body piercing is also very common. When someone picks the Mayil Kavadi, it has 108 Vels or spears which will be pierced into the body of a person. For Alavu Kavadi and Koodam Mulle, the devotees need to slice spears or hooks to their body. Some of them slice spears or Vel to their whole body and will dance with Kavadi. Piercing is usually done on cheeks, tongue and chest. Some of them pierce very long and heavy vel on their cheeks and tongue, where they won’t able to move in the crowd. But all these devotees say that they don’t feel the pain because of the devotion and belief in God.
Thaipusam Outside Tamil Nadu
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The entire South India celebrates Thaipoosam. The festival is popular in the name Thaipooyam in Kerala. Here too, the Murugan temples are crowded with devotees from morning till night to celebrate Thaipooyam. Murugan is the God of war according to Hindu mythology. Thaipusam is also celebrated in countries like Mauritius, South Africa, Fiji, Singapore, Thailand, Trinidad, Tobago and USA. These countries have a large Tamil population and they celebrate this festival traditionally. This is a festival of virtue winning over the evil spirit which everyone rejoices.
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