Thaipusam, also spelt as Thai Poosam, is a sacred Hindu festival that is celebrated to commemorate the triumph of good over evil. The day of Thaipusam is observed annually during the ‘Pusam’ star in the Tamil month of ‘Thai’. The Thaipusam festival assumes immense significance since it celebrates the day when Goddess Parvati presented the Divine ‘Vel’ to Lord Murugan to vanquish the demon army led by ‘Surapadman’. The day is widely celebrated in the Southern regions of the country including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The Thaipusam festival usually occurs in the last week of January or the beginning of February.
Significance of Thaipusam
The ‘Vel’ (lance) was given to Lord Murugan to eliminate the three demons, Surapadman, Singamugan, and Tarakasura, who represent the forces of hatred, greed, and arrogance. The mighty ‘Vel’ was invested with the ‘Shakti’ or power of Goddess Parvati and used by Lord Murugan to kill the three asuras. Thus, it has come to be regarded as a symbol of purification. The ‘Vel’ also serves as the protective and purifying force of Lord Murugan, and the occasion of Thaipusam is celebrated to glorify these benign forces. Many devotees observe the festival of Thaipusam by performing acts of penance such as carrying the ‘Kavadi’. This entails carrying a horizontal branch of a tree with two pots of milk tied at each end, decorated with a wooden arch, flowers and peacock feathers. Worshiping Lord Murugan on the occasion of Thaipusam is said to alleviate the effects of bad karma, abstains one from committing wrong doing and generally makes life more positive.
Legend of Thaipusam
The festival of Thaipusam commemorates the day when Lord Murugan received the ‘Vel’ from his mother, Goddess Parvati to destroy the demon Surapadman. It is also believed that it was on this day that Lord Shiva commenced the cosmic dance ‘Ananda Tandava’ in the ‘Nataraj’ form. The Gods, sages and priests gathered at the Shiva temple of Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu had the privilege of witnessing this awesome form of the Lord on the occasion of Thaipusam. Though the festival of Thaipsuam is observed in Shiva and Muruga temples, it has come to be more popularly associated with Lord Muruga.
Rituals and Celebrations observed on Thaipusam
Lord Muruga is also known as Skanda, Karthikeya and Subrahamaniya. He is almost always portrayed with his powerful ‘Vel’ and worshiped with deep reverence and dedication by his devotees. The Thaipusam festival celebrated in his honor is widely observed not only in India, but also in many parts of the world with a sizable South Indian population.
The sacred ritual of body piercing (especially the tongue or cheeks) with the ‘Vel’ (lance) is highly popular among devotees and has also made waves in the International community as a means of attaining divine blessings through the practice of severe penance.
On the occasion of Thaipusam, devotees make offerings of yellow or orange fruits or flowers which are considered Lord Muruga’s favorite colors. Devotees also carry a yoke (Kavadi) on their shoulders with pails on either side laden with milk, water, fruits and flowers to Murugan temples.