Thai poosam Kavady, a day of faith and love

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“Vetri Vel Muruganike…Arohara… When I’m down and alone, I come to you Lord Muruga…Vetri Vel, Vetri Vel Muruga…”

It is that favourite time of the year again where the long awaited Thai Poosam Kavady has arrived. Kavady started with flag hoisting on 31 January followed by the carrying of Kavady on 9 February.

Thai Poosam Kavady is one of the most famously celebrated South Indian festivals around the world. Its origin stems from Tamil Nadu in South India. Over the decades Hindus all over the world celebrated Kavady as part of their devotion to Lord Murugap Peruman.

Devotees carry pal (meaning Milk) kavadi at Thaipusam festival…It is claimed that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left “Thai Poosam” falls every year on the full moon day in the Tamil month “Thai” (January/February).

On this day the full moon is in transit through the brightest star “Pusam’ in the zodiac sign cancer and the planet Guru is said to be the presiding deity. The festival occurs in the month of Thai (the 10th month on the Tamil calendar) and on the day when the full moon passes through the star “Pusam”. This event is called “Thai Poosam”. This festival is one of the biggest festivals on the South Indian calendar in South Africa.

The Kavady prayer and penance is observed over 10 days by devotees. The devotee has to abstain from various things like alcohol, drugs etc. They have to observe celibacy and maintain a vegetarian diet for this entire period. The Kavady procession is seen as an outward demonstration of mass devotion to God as Lord Muruga.

There are various reasons for carrying the Kavady but the two main categories are firstly to express thanks to Lord Muruga or to ask Muruga for help in overcoming a particular problem. According to mythology, Iduman, one of the disciples of Agasthiyai, was asked to bring two hills – representing the two forces inherent in all living beings (Siva and Shakti). Iduman, carried these two hills with a Kavady beam across his shoulder with one hill suspended on each end. Mid-way through the journey he sat his burden down in order to rest.

When he was ready to resume, he found that the hills were too heavy to pick up. As he prepared to forcibly pick them up he saw Lord Muruga in the way and he angrily asked him to move out of the way, Muruga refused.

Iduman was annoyed, a battle broke out between Lord Muruga and Iduman whereby Iduman was destroyed. Muruga through his eternal mercy revived and pardoned him, a change came over Iduman and he became Lord Muruga’s greatest devotee. He carried the first Kavady out of absolute devotion to the Lord. Lord Muruga also made Iduman his gate keeper. That is why when a devotee goes to the famous Pazhanimalai temple one must first pray to Iduman and then proceed to the main temple.

What is a Kavady? – It is a Tamil word meaning flattened pole with loads at the ends. The Kavady carried in a religious procession also has a pole with a semi circular arch. The arch is decorated with flowers and palm leaves. The loads attached to the ends of the pole are brass vessels filled with milk or other offerings. Peacock feathers and a vel are also attached.

A brass pot filled with milk can also be carried for Lord Muruga as an offering and it is called “Paal Kodum”. One question which is often asked by devotees is can I fast for Kavady without carrying a Kavady. The answer to this question is definitely “YES”. One does not have to only carry a Kavady to show devotion to Lord Muruga.

By observing the 10 day fast and attending the 10 day prayer at the temple is also seen as devotion towards Lord Muruga. Devotees please remember it is your love and devotion towards the Lord that is important.

Why is a flag raised and a 10 day fast observed? The flag is raised on the first day. Firstly it marks the beginning of the 10 day fast and the observance of the Kavady festival. The flag also serves as a reminder that one should start fasting and go to the temple.

The meaning of the banner or flag – The Sevel (Rooster) symbolises the approach or the dawn of knowledge. It is the Sevel that proclaims the coming of the sun in the east. The sun is the heavenly body that dispels darkness. The Sevel on the banner announces the approach of knowledge which will destroy all ignorance. The 10 day fast or sadhana is the clearance of one’s mind, body and soul. By fasting and going to temple and praying for 10 days devotees become spiritually charged and uplifted to carry their Kavady.

The Vel – Lord Muruga’s Vel is strong, straight and pointed, representing our spinal cord running through the spinal column, to the top most part of our brain, which is the highest point of knowledge. The Vel is the spear of wisdom, penetrating the intellect, seeking ultimate reality. A deadly foe to the arrogant, to the lower natured it affords strength and protection to the awaken soul.

The Mayil (Peacock) – The Peacock represents his Vahana (vehicle) symbolising his conquest over ego, vanity and pride. By Lord Muruga sitting on the Peacock it symbolises the control he has over our pride and ego. Valli and Dheivany consorts of Lord Muruga Valli is Icchashakti the power of will and Dheivany Kryashakti power of action.

Why yellow? – The ancient tribes in India started the Kavady festival by worshipping the rising sun. They believed that the sun could provide heat and light but symbolically it could also burn up sins and redeem devotees.

They recognized the sun as Lord Muruga. The sun was seen as a yellow colour which is associated with Kavady. That is why devotees wear yellow for Kavady.

Types of Kavadies

Various Kavadies one can carry:

  • Manjal (turmeric powder)/worries and debts
  • Pushpa (Flowers)/ progress and success
  • Paal (Milk)/ Good life and prosperity
  • Thayier (Sour milk)/sickness
  • Illanier (tender coconut)/conceiving
  • Then (Honey)/truthfulness and honesty
  • Ellemichaai (Lime)/enemies
  • Vibhoothi (Holy ash)/blessings
  • Panier (Rose water)/ wealth and progress
  • Ney (Ghee) liberation
  • Meaning of the following?
  • Vetri-vel – The Vel of victory
  • Haragarogara – Hail, Hail, Hail Oh Lord

Among those present were Vinay Choonie (DA Branch Chair for Ward 120) Martin Williams (DA PR Councillor for Ward 120 ) Patrick Atkinson MP (DA Political Head for the Lenasia Constituency, which comprises six wards.)

Submitted by Jaya’s Temple

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