Thaipusam, observed today – February 7, 2012 – is one of the biggest festival dedicated to Hindu God Muruga. Thaipusam is mainly celebrated by the Hindu Tamil speaking community in India (especially in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh), Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka and in many other parts of the world were Tamilians have settled. Goddess Parvati presented the ‘vel’ (lance) to Lord Muruga on the Thai Pusam day to defeat the demons. Like most Hindu festivals, Thaipusam too celebrates the victory of good over evil. The most important event on the day is that of devotees carrying various types of Kavadi to the Murgan temples. The most important Kavadi pilgrimage takes place at the Batu caves in <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = ST1 /><ST1:COUNTRY-REGION w:st="on"><ST1LACE w:st="on">Malaysia</ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION> and Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu. Significance of Thaipusam Thaipusam, like most Hindu festivals, celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is believed that Goddess Parvati gave the ‘Vel’ (lance) to Lord Muruga on the Thaipusam day to vanquish the Asura (demon) army. Thaipusam is observed on the Pusam star in the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ (January – February). <?XML:NAMESPACE PREFIX = O /> Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, is also known as Skanda and Subrahamaniyan. He defeated Tarakasuran and other demons using the ‘vel.’ This is why most images of Lord Muruga have him carrying the powerful ‘vel.’ Thaipusam is mainly celebrated in the Tamil speaking world. In <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>India</ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>, it is celebrated in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu and in parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Thaipusam celebration at the <ST1LACE><ST1LACENAME>Batu</ST1LACENAME> <ST1LACETYPE>Caves</ST1LACETYPE></ST1LACE> in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>Malaysia</ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION> has become world famous. It is also celebrated with much fervor in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>Singapore</ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>. Devotees carry Kavadi to Murugan temples on this day. Nowadays, Thaipusam celebrations garner international attraction for the body piercing with vel (lance) by devotees What to do on Thaipusam Day? Thaipusam is one of the most important festivals dedicated to Lord Muruga - also known as Skanda, Subrahmaniya and Kartikeya and Shanmukha. Thaipusam is held on Pusam star in the month of Thai (January – February). There are numerous legends and myths associated with this Murugan festival. On the Thaipusam day, large number of devotees head towards Murugan temples in procession carrying Kavadi. The drumming and chanting of vel vel shakti vel electrifies the procession and some start to dance. Some devotees pierce their tongue and cheek with ‘vel’ (small lances.) Some insert hooks in their body and some use these hooks to pull heavy objects. On the day, devotees go to any length to display their devotion to Lord Muruga. The more subdued devotees offer fruits and yellow or orange colored flowers to Lord Muruga. They wear yellow or orange colored dress. These two colors are identified with Muruga. Some people carry pots of milk on their head. Story on Thaipusam There are numerous myth associated with Thaipusam. But the most important legend is that of Goddess Parvati presenting ‘Vel’ to muruga to eliminate demon Tharakasura. Vel myth behind celebrating Thaipusam Sages were fed up with the troubles created by demon Tarakasuran and his friends. They complained to Lord Shiva and he instructed Lord Muruga to help them. Lord Shiva gave him eleven weapons and Mother Parvati presented the most powerful ‘Vel.’ Lord Muruga killed the demons including Tharakasuran on Pusam star in the month of <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>Thai. Thaipusam is celebrated to </ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>commemorate <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>this victory of good over evil. </ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION> Kavadi and Thaipusam Another legend about Thaipusam is associated with the Kavadi. It involves Lord Muruga testing the determination of Idumban, the student of Sage Agasthya. Curse on Lord Muruga and Thaipusam Another myth revolves around Lord Muruga eavesdropping into the conversation between Lord Shiva and Parvati. Lord Shiva was rendering an important mantra to Parvati and Lord Muruga listened to it by hiding. Parvati discovered that Lord Muruga was eavesdropping and cursed him. Lord Muruga acknowledged his mistake and started a penance. Parvati was pleased and appeared before him with Lord Shiva. Thaipusam is believed to be the day in which Parvati appeared before Lord Muruga. Cosmic Dance and Thaipusam According to another legend Lord Shiva and Parvati were involved in a cosmic dance on the Thaipusam day. It is said that all the gods assembled to watch this cosmic dance. River Kaveri and Thaipusam Another myth of Thaipusam revolves around Lord Vishnu and River Kaveri. Kaveri was jealous of River <ST1LACE>Ganga </ST1LACE>getting so much of importance - especially <ST1LACE>Ganga </ST1LACE>residing on the locks of Lord Shiva. She prayed to Lord Vishnu and it is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared before her on Thaipusam day. Significance of Kavadi in Muruga Temples Offering Kavadi to Lord Muruga is of great significance as it brings peace and good luck. The myth of taking Kavadi is associated with Lord Murugan testing Idumban of his determination and duty towards his Guru. The Kavadi that each devotee carries symbolizes his/her burden like the two hills carried by Idumban. It is believed that the burden in the life of a devotee who carries Kavadi is lessened by Murugan. Taking Kavadi to Murugan temples during Thaipusam is considered highly auspicious. The usual Kavadi is a small wooden structure with an arch covered with a piece of cloth and is held on shoulders. The two sides of the Kavadi are covered with feathers of peacock – the vehicle of Lord Muruga. The sides also contain two bags to carry offerings to the Lord. Some devotees beg at houses to collect the offerings to the Lord. But today most people fill the bags on their own. The person who takes the Kavadi should observe certain austerities. The austerities start with food. Most Kavadi bearers avoid non-vegetarian food, liquor and other intoxicating objects. <ST1:CITY><ST1LACE>Orange</ST1LACE></ST1:CITY> and yellow are the preferred dress color. These colors are associated with Lord Muruga. The person on the day of journey holds a cane in his hand. Some Kavadi bearers insert ‘vel’ (small lances) and hooks on the body. No reference of such practice is found in any holy scriptures. But people do such antics to please Lord Muruga. Today, artistic talent comes to the fore when it comes displaying Kavadis and the shape and structure of Kavadis have undergone sea change. Different types of Kavadi are offered by devotees at the <ST1LACE><ST1LACENAME>Batu</ST1LACENAME> <ST1LACETYPE>Cave</ST1LACETYPE> <ST1LACETYPE>Temple</ST1LACETYPE></ST1LACE> in <ST1:COUNTRY-REGION><ST1LACE>Malaysia</ST1LACE></ST1:COUNTRY-REGION>. And some of latest Kavadis are mindboggling. In spite of all these changes, even today one finds people taking the simple traditional Kavadi and begging in <ST1LACE>South India to go to Palani Temple in Tamil Nadu</ST1LACE>.