Thaipusam - Tamil Festival
Thaipusam is a Tamil festival celebrated on the Full Moon day of the Tamil month of Thai. Thaipusam is a combination of two words, Thai and Pusam. Thai is the name of the Tamil month and Pusam is the name of Nakshatra Pushya. Pushya nakshatra is at the highest point in the sky on this day.
Thaipusam is dedicated to Lord Murugan or Skanda, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It is the day on which Lord Murugan was given a Vel or a Spear to kill the demon Soorapadaman. Celebrated mostly among the Tamilians, it is a major Hindu festival for Tamilians living across the world especially in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, and Mauritius etc.
Significance of Thaipusam
The festival of Thaipusam is dedicated to the most worshipped deity of the South, Lord Murugan, who is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The significance of this festival lies in the fact that this festival shows the importance of empowerment of a person to fight against evil forces and anti-social elements prevailing at a given period. The origin of this festival lies in the war between demons and the Gods. The Gods were repeatedly been defeated by the demons for the demons were more powerful than the Gods due to the penances they had performed to gain super powers. All the Gods could not face the strength and power of the demons. Soorapadaman had worshipped Lord Shiva and had performed extreme austerities to please Lord Shiva. He got the boon from Shiva that only the son produced by Shiva without being in contact with any female would be able to kill him. This boon had gone to Soorpadaman’s head and he tortured the humans and the Gods.
After the repeated defeats, all the Gods went to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva asked Kartikeya also called as Murugan by the South Indians, to lead the army of the Gods against the demons to vanquish them. Kartikeya was born by the fire of Shiva's forehead so he could fulfil the condition of the demon's death. Goddess Parvati blessed her son with a Vel or the spear ahead of the war, in which he killed Tarakasur, the brother of Soorapadaman, and later defeated him too. He bowed in the feet of Murugan and asked for his forgiveness. Lord Murugan blessed him with forgiveness and made him his permanent Vahana or the Vehicle, by giving him the form of the peacock.
Rituals performed on Thaipusam
On this day devotees worship Lord Murugan to seek his blessings to ward off evil and troubles from their lives and to bless them with a happy and peaceful life. Thaipusam is a festival when the Hindu devotees offer sacrifice to Lord Subramanian. It includes both physical and mental discipline like fasting or only eating vegetarian food along with observing celibacy, abstaining negative thoughts and acts.
The highest form of sacrifice is the Kavadi Attam. This is called the sacrifice at every step as the devotees carry a Kavadi having food offerings to Kartikeya, which is carried barefooted in the procession of thousands and thousands of devotees. Kavadi is a wooden canopy supported by the wooden rod to carry on the shoulder. Pilgrims carry this decorated Kavadi on their shoulders to the temple barefooted. Some people only carry pots of milk on their heads. This procession some times take weeks to reach the destination temple, which in most of the cases is the Palani Temple of Murugan. Some people even engage in the mortification of their body by getting it pierced at parts like cheeks, tongue, skin etc. after reaching the temple, this procession comes to an end. Devotees are offered fruits mixed with honey as prasad. People feed thousands of poor for three days in the temples. After the devotees reach back in their homes, a common family ritual takes place. They collectively worship Lord Murugan and after that, a festive meal is shared with the family and the friends.
Thaipusam is a national holiday in countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius etc.