The annual silver and gold chariot processions during Thaipusam in Penang is most likely to be cancelled next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) chairman Prof P Ramasamy told Bernama that the state will have a series of meetings on how to proceed with Thaipusam amid the pandemic.

"Our priority is the safety of all devotees as chariots are the ones that pull in the crowd. Once you have chariot procession, the crowd will be very difficult to control. We do not want the Thaipusam gathering to spark off any new cluster," he told the national news agency in an interview in George Town.

The processions of the 100-year-old silver chariot and the recent golden chariot are the highlight of the annual three-day Thaipusam celebration in Penang every year. It draws in millions of devotees and visitors, both local and from abroad, annually.

Any decision made will be the interest of the public, Ramasamy, who is also Penang Deputy Chief Minister II told Bernama.

According to him further, detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) on Thaipusam celebration in the state will be made available on the first week of January after consulting the state Health Department, National Security Council and the police.

If the processions and the other events like "panthals" and kavadis are cancelled, Ramasamy urged the public to accept the decision and abide by the ruling, rather than getting emotional over it.

Thaipusam, which is celebrated by the Hindus on the full moon day of the Tamil month of "Thai", falls on Jan 28 next year.

Meanwhile, R Subramaniam, the chairman of Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple (better known as Waterfall Temple of Thaneer Malai), where the golden chariot's procession ends, said that he believes the crowd at the temple next year will be lesser than the 1.2 million recorded in previous years, due to the coronavirus threat.

“I think all devotees will understand that we could not celebrate much and that they will most likely to be allowed only to do their prayers at the temple," he told Bernama, adding that nevertheless, the temple's management will be well-equipped to control and manage a possible crowd.

Source: Bernama
Photo source: Visit Penang via Rojak Daily