So far I have managed to avoid the crowds and mayhem of Thaipusam. On Thaipusam Day I opted for more intimate and local ceremonies in Georgetown, Penang. I skipped the first-day chariot procession (Thaipusam Eve or chetty pusam) and am now opting for the less crowded third day of Thaipusam. Like the first day only in reverse. My thinking was the numbers would be worn bringing fewer crowds, fewer annoyances and easier travel. I arrive early and clamber up 513 steps to visit Waterfall Temple where the pilgrimage ended the previous day. Today it is silent.
Beginning the Procession
The Third Day of Thaipusam marks the return journey of the Silver Chariot and Lord Muruga statue. The procession makes its way from Waterfall Temple in the hills of Penang to Kovil Veedu on Penang Street. The procession starts at 06:00 PM in the evening and arrives at Penang Street in the early hours. The area remains quiet until past 05:00 PM the silver chariot sitting silently at the roadside. As prayers and rituals take place inside a smaller roadside temple (not waterfall temple) the statue is lifted, circles the temple’s interior and is carried to the Silver Chariot. Two oxen are attached to the chariot and local Hindus approach to make offerings.
The Coconut Smash
The same rituals as the first day (eve of Thaipusam) happen along the route of the procession. Hindu devotees smash coconuts on the roads to symbolise “the breaking of one’s ego to reveal purity inside”. Many look to be smashing coconuts just for the fun of smashing coconuts. Each coconut smash needs to be cleared before the chariot can move forward again. Clearing is done by nifty motor vehicles. As the rituals continue through the entire procession it will take hours for the chariot to arrive in Georgetown (the following morning).
The Return to Georgetown
I walk back to Georgetown following roads lined with coconuts. Excitement is everywhere as local communities and neighbourhoods stand round mounds of coconuts in anticipation of the passing parade. Kids play with flaming coconuts. Roadside stalls hand out free drinks and nibbles. Aside from the religious Hindu significance of Thaipusam the festival (public holiday) is celebrated by all communities.
A Hard Nut (Fruit) to Crack?
Those knowledgeable in coconuts know that a coconut can be tough to crack. This is why the Thaipusam coconuts are cracked/cut before the celebration. Makes them easy to smash. If eager to join the coconut smash you can find small piles for sale along the roadsides (normally between 20-50RM). Generous locals may offer a free nut or two. Being cheap I smash the coconuts which fail to break. Photographing from opposite I find unbroken coconuts rolling to my feet. Scoop them up and wham.