The traditional Tamil festival of Thaipusam was celebrated with much fervour and gaiety in Christchurch last weekend, bringing together hundreds of community members.
The festival was organised by the upcoming Sri Ganesha Temple Christchurch on Saturday, January 30, bringing together more than 250 enthusiastic members of the community along with the gracious presence of Dr Megan Woods, Minister of Housing, Minister of Energy and Resources, and Minister of Research.
Notably, the Sri Ganesha Temple Christchurch project was initiated to build the first Ganesha temple in South Island of NZ to promote cultural, educational, and spiritual activities related to Hinduism.
Thaipusam is a temple festival celebrated originally by Hindus of South India, especially Tamil, and some parts of Kerala, coinciding with the full moon in Tamil month Thai, which roughly falls between January 14-February 14.
Thai Pusam occurs on the full moon day in the Tamil month, Thai (January–February) means “10th”, and pusam meaning “when the moon is at its brightest”.
It is thus celebrated in the month of Thai (10th month according to the Tamil Almanac) on the day when the moon passes through the star Pusam.
Thaipusam is a day of prayers and penance. Dedicated to Lord Subramaniam, also known as Lord Murugan, a major South Indian god, the deity of youth, power and virtue, this festival is a time for repentance for devotees with celebrations carried out mainly in temples.
It is believed that the devotees who have made vows and pledges to Lord Subramaniam offer their gratitude to him by undergoing self-mortification as a result of deep soul searching and reflection.
The most popular form of sacrifice is the carrying of the kavadi which means “sacrifice at every step”. It is the kavadi that identifies the festival of Thaipusam. Devotees carry the kavadis to ask for forgiveness, keep a vow or offer thanks to Lord Subramaniam.
Devotees observe a 24-hour fast on the eve of Thaipusam. Most women devotees carry a pot of milk called a palkuddam. The milk is poured over the statue of Lord Subramaniam at the end of the procession.
Apart from those who go to the temples on Thaipusam day to fulfil their vows and to do penance, there are others who go with their families to offer prayers and to seek communal and personal spiritual solace.
Festival is celebrated globally by Tamil diaspora
Emanating from humble rural beginnings in Tamil Nadu (and parts of Kerala) the festival has travelled to various parts of the world along with the vibrant Tamil diaspora and is now celebrated at prominent places where native Tamil speaking community resides such as Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Canada, Singapore, South Africa, the United States, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Jamaica and the other parts of the Caribbean.
Slowly the festival is coming alive in New Zealand as well with the growing size of the Tamil community.
Ganesh Temple Christchurch
For uninitiated, the Sri Ganesha Temple Christchurch project was initiated in 2018 to build the first Ganesha temple in South Island of NZ to promote cultural, educational, and spiritual activities related to Hinduism.
Speaking more about the project and the aspirations of a small, but vibrant and enthusiastic community behind the project, Naash Kernell, one of the office-bearers of the project said, “We endeavoured and will always, as a priority, bring people from diverse Hindu communities together in unison.
“There is much disparity with Christchurch having some 30 different segments of Indian communities, each with its own propriety rules and nuances, albeit within the parameters of Hinduism,” Mr Kernell said. (Sandeep Singh)