For first time in century, Penang’s Thaipusam fete axed over Covid concerns

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GEORGE TOWN: For the first time in over a century, the annual Thaipusam celebration in Penang has been cancelled, with devotees told to stay at home during the three-day festival.

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There will not be the dual chariot procession, the breaking of coconuts, panthal stalls, and distribution of free food, kavadi bearers and paal kudam (milk pot kavadi).

The decision was made by the Penang Hindu Endowment Board, Unity Department, Health Department, Penang Security Council and police.

Deputy Chief Minister II Professor Dr P Ramasamy said devotees are also not allowed to go to temples during Thaipusam from Jan 27 to Jan 29.

“We advise them to just stay at home and conduct prayers at their respective residences.

“This measure has to be taken to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said today.

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Thaipusam is usually celebrated on a large scale in Penang annually, with dual chariots – a silver and gold one bearing the image of Lord Muruga – taking to the streets of George Town to the Waterfall Hill Temple.

Ramasamy said with the Covid-19 situation getting more serious, the move was necessary to prevent a Thaipusam cluster.

Meanwhile, Ramasamy said only the temple committees of Nattukottai Chettiar Temple and Waterfall Hill Temple would be allowed to conduct the Thaipusam prayer ceremony during the three-day celebration, minus devotees.

He added that the temple committees would find ways to telecast the prayer ceremonies online for devotees to watch at home.

He, however, said devotees could still conduct prayers at the temples between Jan 14 and Jan 26, subject to strict compliance to the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOP).

The National Security Council (NSC) only allowed 24 Hindu temples nationwide to conduct Thaipusam prayers and ceremonies – two temples are allowed in each state and one temple each in Perlis, Kelantan, Melaka and Terengganu.- NST

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