- POSTED: 15 Jan 2014 21:27
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The annual Hindu festival will attract over a million devotees and visitors from across the country and the world over the next two days.
KUALA LUMPUR: At the Sri Mahamariamman temple in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, preparations are underway for one of the nation's biggest and most colourful celebrations -- Thaipusam.
Malaysia is home to one of the world's biggest celebrations of the Hindu festival. The festival's drama and colour typically attracts more than a million devotees from across the country.
Last year, the festival attracted 1.6 million devotees and visitors from all over the world.
The celebrations kick off in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday night and despite a tough year ahead for Malaysians with the rising cost of living, devotees won't be sparing any expense for the celebrations.
For Hindus, Thaipusam is a day of penance and thanksgiving to the Hindu god Lord Murugan, who is honoured every year with an elaborate procession beginning at the famous Sri Mahamariamman temple.
The procession, a key feature of the festival wherever it is celebrated, takes place on Friday when an eight-tonne golden statue of Lord Murugan is placed on a silver chariot for its 15-kilometre journey to Batu Caves.
Along the way, devotees will carry kavadis -- a semi-circular contraption balanced on their shoulders with spikes piercing the body -- in a form of penance.
A world-renowned tourist destination, Batu Caves has been the focal point of Thaipusam celebrations in the country for the past 120 years. There is a 42-metre statue of Lord Murugan at its entrance, and the complex has three caves with Hindu shrines and temples.
"We're expecting about two million people in Batu Caves,” said Balasubramaniam Parmanathan, a temple volunteer. “It's not only celebrated in Batu Caves, but throughout most Malaysian states -- particularly in Penang, Ipoh and Johor."
There are claims that Malaysia's Thaipusam celebrations are even more spectacular than the ones in India -- and that's a reputation devotees plan on upholding despite the increasingly difficult economic climate in the country.
Most of the faithful preparing for the festival had no qualms about having to fork out that little extra. "Just once a year, I think it's ok -- if it's spent for God," said a Kuala Lumpur resident ahead of the festivities.
"Doesn't matter, what to do... We only need rice, sugar, bananas (for Thaipusam),” said another would-be devotee.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian government wants to initiate some changes this year after volunteers were left to clean up 3,000 tonnes of rubbish after last year's festival.
In a nod to environmental awareness, polystyrene is banned at this year's celebrations and devotees are being urged to recycle the remains of the coconuts they break during rituals.