Thaipusam is a Hindu Festival that is celebrated by the Tamil community. It is a public holiday in Malaysia and it attracts millions of devotees and tourists. The exact date of this festival is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai, which is in January or February, in the Hindu calendar. This festival is dedicated to Lord Murugan. Grand scale celebration takes place at Batu Caves. A lot of devotees also gather at Balathandayuthapani Temple in Penang.
Thaipusam is observed as a day of thanksgiving and the devotees prepare themselves by cleansing their bodies through abstinence and fasting. Most of the devotees observe a vegetarian diet for a certain period. They also pay penance a few days before the festival. They carry the kavadi on their shoulders and milk pots on their heads.
Batu Caves celebrations during Thaipusam
Over 10,000 tourists visit the Batu Caves to witness Thaipusam celebrations at the caves. The devotees gather at Sri Mahamariamman Temple the previous night. They then leave around midnight on a 15 km walk to the Batu Caves. Devotees have to take a flight of 272 steps to reach the cave entrance. Over a million people visit the caves during Thaipusam. The place gets extremely crowded and if you plan on being a part of that crowd, you must prepare to get pushed and shoved.
Most of the devotees will be in a trance and would have their head shaved. Some people also pierce their tongue, skin, and cheeks with Vel skewers.
What to do at the Batu Caves?
If you are not too keen on being a part of the crowd, you can watch the festivities from a distance. If you wish to be a part of it, you have to keep yourself safe and follow the norms set by the authorities. Tourists and devotees will be allowed to go up the stairs to the caves. There will be small food and snacks stalls around the caves. You can also buy a lot of religious items.
If you are accompanied by children, you can take them to a small children’s amusement park which is close to the caves. If you want to take pictures, you can go to the ‘press’ area to get close-up pictures and videos of the devotees.