Thaipusam celebrations in Penang has been cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said devotees will have to pray at their respective homes instead.

"Devotees are not allowed to go to the temples during Thaipusam from January 27 to 29, they must stay home and conduct prayers at home.

"There will be no chariot processions, breaking of coconuts, panthal stalls, distribution of free food, kavadi bearers and paal kudam (milk pot)," Malay Mail quoted him saying.

According to Ramasamy, the decision was taken by the Penang Hindu Endowment Board, after discussions with the Unity Department, Health Department, Penang Security Council, and the police, in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

This will be the first time in over a century where Thaipusam celebrations in the northern state has been cancelled.

"We have been told that the (COVID-19) situation is very serious, so we must control it from spreading. We do not want a Thaipusam cluster," Ramasamy added, urging devotees to not crowd at temples during the three days.

He further reminded devotees to abide by the standard operating procedures (SOPs) set during prayer sessions at home.

Thaipusam this year falls on Jan 28. Ramasamy noted that some devotees might start taking paal kudam as early as Jan 14 (when the Thai month starts according to the Tamil calendar), but they will not be allowed to do so this year.

Apart from ban on kavadi and paal kudam bearing, devotees will also not be allowed to have mass head shaving ceremony.

While devotees have to celebrate the festival at their respective homes, only the committees of the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple and Waterfall Hill Temple will be allowed to conduct the Thaipusam prayer ceremony at the temples, but arrangements will be made to broadcast the ceremony online.

The annual Thaipusam celebration in Penang is renowed for its dual chariots procession - a silver and a gold one. Devotees usually set up panthals (tents) along the chariots' route and make offering and break coconuts for Lord Muruga.

According to Ramasamy, the National Security Council (NSC) only allows 24 temples nationwide to conduct Thaipusam prayers and ceremonies.

These include two temples in every state, and only one in Perlis, Kelantan, Melaka and Terengganu.

Source: Malay Mail
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