Thaipusam Celebrations in Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
by Susila Jeyaratnam, SI Sentul
Thaipusam is celebrated in a Grand scale in Malaysia in 3 main venues;
- Batu Malai Sri Murugan Temple (Batu Caves), Kuala Lumpur
- Kallumalai Subramaniyar Temple, Ipoh
- Thaneermalai Balathandayuthapani Temple, Penang
Other places where you can witness the devotion to Lord Muruga would be at Sg. Petani, Johor Bahru and Kuala Selangor. Any temple dedicated to Lord Muruga will also carry out special prayers on this day.
The festival is generally believed to be a celebration of Lord Muruga’s birthday. In Kuala Lumpur the festival begins at the High Street Amman Temples. Prayers are recited as Lord Muruga seeks his Mother’s blessings before he sets out to his abode in Batu Caves to celebrate his birthday (There are many other stories that give the reason related to Thaipusam celebrations but this is the one I like best). After the prayers Muruga is then raised into a chariot and the procession goes through the streets of Kuala Lumpur all the way to Batu Caves which is approximately 20kms away. Roads are closed to traffic during this time and devotees generally follow the Chariot all the way.
Devotees walking down the 272 steps cautiously after praying at the Sri Subramaniam Swamy Temple in Batu Caves.
A devotee dressed in a colourful costume adjusting his headdress.
The route takes on a festive air as the Chariot makes its way through business centres and residential areas that are located along the route. Along the way business and devotees will seek blessings by offering a tray of fruits and flowers will be passed to priest who would then recite a prayer. Some devotees will also break coconuts to seek blessings. Hence the chariot procession along the city to Batu Caves starts at 10pm on Saturday reaches Batu Caves on Sunday at around 4pm. All along the route “Thaneer Panthals” would be set up by various organisations. “Thanneer” means water and “Panthal” translates into tent. Here water and drinks are offered to anyone. Some even offer food. As I walked through the route I found myself constantly being fed. It also offers a place where one could seek rest as chairs are provided as well. Some groups of youth also get together to play traditional Indian drums along the way which keep you motivated and entertained as you walk the route.
A devotee carrying a large kavadi in the shape of a peacock during Thaipusam at Batu Caves.
For the next two days devotees who have gone through 48 days of cleansing by fasting will carry out the ceremonial sacrifice/offering. This could be as simple as carrying a “paal kudam” (vessel with milk) through the entire route from Amman temple to Batu Caves or carrying a “Kavadi”. Kavadi/ Paal Kudam symbolize the burdens or obstacles faced by the devotee. Some devotees would also pierce their tongue or cheek with small spears which the symbol of Lord Muruga. By carrying out this sacrifice the devotee is seeking the help of Lord Muruga.
The colourful Thaipusam celebration in Batu Caves. — ART CHEN/The Star
The celebration ends when Lord Muruga is raised again into the chariot at Batu Caves and heads back to his Mother’s abode in the Amman Temple.
The distinctive Peranakan culture
by Nyonya Doris
Peranakan Chinese, or Straits-born Chinese, are descendants of Chinese immigrants who came to the Malay archipelago including British Malaya, Dutch East Indies and even southern Thailand between the 15th and 17th centuries.
To distinguish themselves as local-born Chinese, the male descendants are called Babas, the females – Nyonyas and Matriarch senior ladies, the Bibiks.
These new immigrants intermarried with the locals. While retaining their Chinese identity over time, they assimilated the Malay language and customs, mode of dressing, even cooking styles, to create a fusion that is unique to Malacca and Penang ‘Peranakans’.
Peranakan food is indeed diverse and distinctive with signature dishes as laksa, assam pedas, pongteh, achar, buah keluak , perut ikan and many others, using local herbs and spices such as galangal, turmeric, candlewax nut, bunga kantan, etc. Desserts come in an array of nyonya kuih, the ubiquitious pineapple tarts, apom bokwa and a host of tasty delights.
The Nyonyas are dressed in embroidered kebayas with matching sarongs, accessorised by kerongsang and distinctive jewellery, and beaded slippers so fondly called “kasut manik manik”. I am so fortunate to have Mum’s heritage collection.
These vignettes would not do justice to the complexity and the rich tapestry of the Peranakan culture that draws academic research and discourse. However a read of “Kebaya Tales” and “Sarong Secrets” by Assoc Prof. Lee Su Kim delve into the colourful world of the Babas and Nyonyas, through the eyes of the insider. I am sure you will enjoy her deep insights, as she is also a Peranakan.
The wealth of Malaysia lies in its multi-culturalism – that delicious ‘rojak’ of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic people merged so seamlessly into a tapestry of cultures and multi identities.
This is what you will savour when you sign up for SI Convention KL 2019 (18 - 21 July 2019).
Special Full Convention Registration is still on, with numerous privileges and benefits.
Don’t forget to register for the sisterhood tours – which besides Malacca and Penang, have other options too.
Soroptimist Sisters’ Recommendation – Walkabout in Brickfields
Walkabout in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur
- rich in heritage and history, a showcase of religious tolerance, so accessible from KL Sentral -
Brickfields, Malaysia’s official Little India, has rows of shops that sell everything from traditional Indian goods such as saris, flower garlands, spices and Bollywood music, to local delicacies such as vadai, thosai (Indian pancakes made from fermented rice flour) and more. On 27 October 2010, this RM35 million project was jointly unveiled by the Prime Ministers of India and Malaysia.
A 35-foot fountain at the entrance welcomes visitors to the sights and sounds of India. Turn left and along Jalan Tun Sambanthan modern landmarks have transformed Brickfields from what it was before when clay pits and brick kilns used to line the railway tracks.
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/SriKandaswamyTemple/
At Public Bank, turn right and walk to YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association). At the traffic lights, turn left. Passing narrow roads reach Jalan Scott, named after Sam Scott who had his Selangor Ice & Aerated Water Company at the end of the road, on land that is today occupied by the Sri Kandaswamy Kovil. Sri Kandaswamy Kovil is a Hindu temple located along Jalan Scott, Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The temple, over a century old is one of the most prominent Sri Lankan or Ceylonese Tamil temples in Malaysia.
The Sri Kandaswamy Temple was inaugurated in 1902 with the installation of the ‘Vel’ by His Holiness Sri Murugaswamy. In 1910, a semi-permanent hall was built, this being the fore-runner of the present Kalamandapam which was officially opened on 25th August 1973 by Y.A.B Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato Hussein, the Prime Minister at that time. Featuring a traditional Sri Lankan architectural style, the entrance is decorated with statues of hundreds of Hindu deities. Local devotees believe this shrine to be the threshold between the material and spiritual worlds. Sri Kandaswamy Kovil Hindu Temple houses a pavilion beside a reflecting lotus pond, with peacocks wandering through the main courtyard. The building’s hall has become a popular venue for weddings, cultural shows, seminars, lectures and social functions.
Read more at: here
Another iconic Hindu temple is the Sri Krishna Temple in Scotts Road. Lord Krishna is reputed in this temple to frequently bestow the gift of offspring. Many childless couples get their prayers answered at this holy place. Once their prayers are answered, the couples contribute towards the upkeep of the temple as a mark of appreciation.
Krishna Jeyanthi is celebrated on a grand scale when the temple becomes energetic with 13 days of festivities. On the very last day, Gokula Asthami is celebrated with much devotion. A holy cow is brought into the quarters of the temple for Komadha puja. This puja sanctifies the temple, as the cow is Lord Krishna’s favourite animal.
Sri Kandaswamy Temple was inaugurated in 1902 with the installation of the ‘Vel’ by His Holiness Sri Murugaswamy. A Reading Room was built in 1905 with plank walls, cement flooring and attap-roof. In 1910, a semi-permanent hall was built, this being the fore-runner of the present Kalamandapam which was officially opened on 25th August 1973 by Y.A.B Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato Hussein, the Prime Minister at that time, The building’s hall has become a popular venue for weddings, cultural shows, seminars, lectures and social functions.
Walk along Jalan Scott established on November 21, 1951 on the initiative of Major D.R. Bridges who was the officer in the Department of Welfare Services of Malaya.
This small surau was re-constructed to a new Masjid. The main language for preaching is Tamil. This is a Madrasah (school) too where children can learn Al-Quran. In the month of Ramadan, porridge (bubur lambuk) is prepared with rice and other ingredients to be distributed to everyone who breaks the fast.
Photo credit: https://www.expatgo.com
TAMIL METHODIST CHURCH
The Tamil Methodist Church Kuala Lumpur along Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad has services in English and Tamil as well as in Nepali, Telugu and Sinhalese. It traces its roots as far back as 1896, when Tamil Christians began church-planting activity in Kuala Lumpur, resulting in the founding of the Tamil Methodist Church on 18 June, 1897. Many Indonesian Christian workers employed in Malaysia attend Sunday services at this church.
Photo Credit: https://www.thestar.com.my/
THE LUTHERAN CHURCH
The Lutheran Church of Malaysia traces its history to the eviction of foreign Christian missionaries from mainland China in 1953, after the establishment of the People's Republic of China. Some missionaries from the United Lutheran Church in America were stationed to northern Malaya and worked among the ethnic Chinese community who were relocated to the New Villages as part of an attempt to stem the influence of the Communist Party of Malaya during the Malayan Emergency.
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/Fatima.Church/
CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA
This Roman Catholic church in Jalan Sultan Abdul Samad located across the road from SJK (C) St Teresa Brickfields, was the result of church planting carried out by French Catholic priests from the Paris Foreign Missions Society (Société des Missions étrangères de Paris, or MEP). Initially, the largely Indian Catholics were attending services at the Church of St Anthony, but as their numbers increased, the then priest Father Antoine Hermann initiated the founding of the Church of Our Lady of Fatima.
Photo Credit: https://www.thestar.com.my/
BUDDHIST MAHA VIHARA
Free vegetarian lunch,donations from devotees is available on every First and Fifteen Day of the Full Moon Lunar calendar.
Two Bodhi trees taken from the sampling of the original Sri Maha Bodhi tree in Sri Lankan are a welcome sight. You can say a prayer and go around clockwise 3 or 9 times in quiet contemplation.
On Wesak Day (Vesak Night), an annual procession of colourful floats with statues of Buddha makes its way to the city centre and back. Located opposite the Shrine Hall is the multi-storey Wisma Dharma Cakra. The complex also houses the Buddhist Institute Sunday Dhamma School (BISDS), Tadika Sudharma, Parama Business & IT Training Centre and the Asoka Hall.
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/TheTempleOfFineArtsKL/
TEMPLE OF FINE ARTS
On the next corner is the Temple of Fine Arts (TFA), an imposing modern building completed in 2008. The role of the TFA is to help the younger generations of Malaysian Indians to remain in touch with their Southern Indian cultural roots and traditions. It houses function rooms and performance venues. On the ground floor is a smart Indian restaurant called Annalakshmi and a shop selling Indian gifts and handicrafts, Savanya Arts.
TRADITIONAL MALAY HOUSE
Opposite the temple is a magnificently preserved traditional wooden house in Malay style. It is a pre WW2 (World War II) house with an entire street that once had that design. The house was occupied by the parents of a Malaysian tycoon, who has since restored it and kept it for private use.
Photo Credit: https://www.thestar.com.my/
The brick-paved Jalan Tun Sambanthan is lined with white street lamps and creamy-yellow arches with purple embellishments to match the newly painted purple buildings along the street
Along Jln Tun Sambanthan, I pass florist shops selling garlands of jasmine, rose and other colourful blooms hanging from racks. Pause awhile to watch the speed in which the florist weaves her fingers through the petals to create garlands of various combinations. I continue through shops blasting Bollywood music with rows of Indian CDs, fruits on makeshift tables and trinkets of various sizes and shapes.
Colourful saris and churitas with matching accessories attract my attention, and am indeed lost for choice.
It’s lunch time and I walk into Sri Paandi Restaurant. Brickfields is popular for its affordable eateries, most importantly, restaurants specialising in banana leaf lunches, Roti Canai and thosai. Many of the businesses here operate late into the night and some even run round the clock.
Photo Credit: https://www.thestar.com.my/
The Vivekananda Ashram constructed in 1904 was named in honour of the Indian spiritual leader Vivekananda, who visited Malaya in 1893. His statue stands in front of the entrance. The building is now protected as a heritage site. Spiritual education classes and prayer meetings are held here.
These are among some of the many attractions you will see in your walkabout in Brickfields. Make this your travel discovery when you sign up to attend the SI Convention KL 2019, 18-21 July 2019.