Will SG Thaipusam 2018 be eclipsed by dissent?

Thaipusam in Singapore has been an eventful festival in the past few years. Widespread unhappiness over the rules that apparently impede one's freedom to practise his faith. On one hand, we have devotees who claim that rules concerning the festival are unfair. On the other hand, we had authorities and political leaders who claimed that the rules have been relaxed etc.  The issue of music had been the sore point but has since been rectified with the introduction of music points.

This year, we face a whole new challenge in the form of a lunar eclipse (Chandra grahanam) which takes place on 31 January 2018.  Hindu temples in Singapore will close early due to the eclipse. Thaipusam procession will start earlier at Perumal Temple on the eve (30 January 2018) from 9.30 pm. 

All devotees have to complete their walk/ vows and reach Tank Road Temple by 6.30pm on Thaipusam day as no religious and milk offerings can be made during a lunar eclipse. 

More on the Eclipse

Solar and Lunar eclipses are very significant in Hinduism. Historically, Hindu temples where a Solar or Lunar eclipse can be witnessed will remain closed during the period of the eclipse. During an eclipse, light and energy from the sun or moon are blocked and cannot reach the earth. Eclipses are therefore considered inauspicious and Hindu temples are closed. Arulmigu Thendayuthapani Swamy Thirukovil (Palani) and religious experts were apparently consulted regarding the above information.

Will it be smooth sailing?

The temple websites have stated that no devotees will be allowed to leave after 1 pm from Perumal temple and enter Tank Road Temple after 6.30pm. For those who have participated in Thaipusam or have been a spectator would realise that majority of the devotees are there to PRAY. However, there is a disappointing bunch that have dedicated this religious procession to PLAY. 

Let's be clear, this group of hooligans are not just youngsters. They are usually stocked with a Big Gulp Drink (which usually is premixed with alcohol) or would be chugging from Tall Cans covered in a plastic bag. While actual devotees would be singing hymns dedicating to Lord Murugan, this special breed would break into cheers dedicating to their neighbourhood. [They should really consider joining the People's Association]

The other problem that is completely foreseeable is the Kavadis who have yet to leave Perumal Temple at 1 pm or those Kavadis who have not reached Tank Road Temple by 6.30pm.  Will they have a grace period?  Will the Temple close its doors? Will devotees accept being turned away although it was their fault being late? There is always this usual bunch that probably competes on being the last to leave.  

Even if the devotees are agreeable with the decision made by the organisers,  the tricky issue is that one devotee is usually accompanied by a group of relatives and friends who will tend to blow up the issue. 

Tripartite Alliance ( Police - Devotees - Volunteers )

Now more than ever, the responsibility of maintaining peace falls on the volunteers and organisers who will be at the forefront in handling this. In my experience, I have encountered Thaipusam volunteers who are rude and obnoxious and clearly enjoy the power their position has availed them to and there are others who clearly understand what volunteering is about and that they are there to serve. 

On that same note, I can only hope that the devotees realise that they are not the only ones praying and also understand the conditions of the eclipse and work with the authorities and make Thaipusam 2018 a peaceful and memorable one for all the right reasons. 

For that to happen, we really need the Men in Blue to play their role. I hope the authorities realise that they need to be present and visible to compel people to be on the best behaviour.  It is the same purpose as the speed cameras and the multiple warning signs that are in place in the vicinity of a speed camera. Deterrence. We can hope the authorities decide to ditch their plain clothes and don their blues. We certainly would not mind if they stand in the shade if it gets too hot. 

Om Muruga Saranam

Thinesh Kurunathan

[This, btw, is a Singaporean Song - Enjoy!!!]


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