From ‘Thaipusam: Consult Hindu community first’, 13 Jan 2011, ST Forum
(Shasikala Kalai Silvan): THAIPUSAM is an important Hindu celebration that also involves the participants’ friends, who sing and cheer to the music.
However, the new rules laid down by the Hindu Endowments Board for the annual procession, which will be held on Jan 19 and 20, will bar the music and drums.
Worse, the new rules may ban transgressors from participating in future processions, or face a fine.
It is common for the family and friends of the participants to cheer and shout during the procession. That is how Thaipusam is celebrated in Singapore.
Music and cheering encourage the thousands of participants to complete their vows to the Hindu god, Lord Murugan, to whom Thaipusam is dedicated.
While the level of noise could be reduced, the procession is held for only two days; besides, other festivals are accompanied with music and noise as well.
The board should review the rules. It should also have consulted the Hindu community before changing its guidelines.
Funny how the Hindu Endowments board clamps down on a mere annual event when there are far noisier shenanigans that don’t involve Lord Murugan pleasing happening every single day, especially those that involve the more invasive setting of void decks. Isn’t Thaipusam usually celebrated on the streets where such noise would be drowned by the sluggish horns of heavy traffic anyway? Perhaps it has something to do with the hazardous props being employed during the festival, where any form of rowdiness and drunken mobbing would put kavadi carriers in grave danger, or endanger passers-by who may be impaled by a stray flying kavadi skewer or a piece of hot coal in any ensuing melee. Maybe some orgiastic merrymaking once in a while would do everyone some good, for who knows what an excess of stifling and quiet conformity would do to our usual practice of keeping our clothes on in public.
We should be grateful we still have such practices today though, for half a century ago, Thaipusam was frowned upon entirely, a time when any form of trance-induced self mutilation, be it a hooked tongue or a nose stud, was deemed somewhat pathological and barbaric, as seen in the article 7 Feb 1950.