GEORGE TOWN: For the first time in almost 150 years, Penang will not get to see a chariot procession or kavadis during Thaipusam next Jan 28 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although a final decision will only be known early next month, the silver chariot’s proud 126-year procession history looks set to be rewritten.
For the record, a wooden chariot was used for 23 years until 1894. And even during World War II, there wasn’t a break for the procession as the festival continued unhindered.
This time, the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB), organisers of the Penang Thaipusam, and the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple, who leads the chariot procession, have heeded the request by the authorities to cancel the procession.
“There will be no chariot processions, thaneer panthals (refreshment stalls), kavadis or carrying of paal kudam (milk pots), ” said PHEB chairman Dr P. Ramasamy.
Plans are afoot to have only pooja (prayers) at both the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Hilltop Temple and the Chettiar Temple on Thaipusam Day.
“We are awaiting for the standard operating procedure from the National Security Council, which will outline the dos and don’ts for the festival, ” said Dr Ramasamy.
Meanwhile, the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple is preparing for only 300 people to be allowed inside the temple during the pooja session on Thaipusam Day, which will be conducted between 11am and 1pm followed by lunch for the devotees.
This will enable physical distancing among them.
It is a far cry from the 3,000 people who crowded the Chettiar Temple during the festival for the pooja and lunch.
“It will definitely be the first time ever for us to have a festival without the chariot, but we are not in normal times and the pandemic must be taken seriously, ” said Nattukotai Chettiar Temple managing trustee Meyappan Manickam.
The PHEB rolled out the golden chariot in 2017, breaking the tradition of a lone silver chariot procession for more than 100 years. The Star