Only the “paal koodam” procession of carrying milk pots, prayer activities and chariot processions will be allowed during Thaipusam this year, while the “kavadi” ceremony will remain off limits as part of efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique said “paal koodam” would be allowed from Jan 14 to 19 with the number of devotees allowed to participate set according to the respective temple.
“Each session will be for 30 minutes, followed by sanitisation. For the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves, Selangor, the number of individuals for ‘paal koodam’ should not exceed 100.
“For the Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani Temple and Nagarathar Thandayuthapani Temple in George Town, Penang, the Ipoh Hindu Devastanam Paripalana Sabah Temple and Sri Subramaniyar Thevasthana Paripalana Sabah Temple in Sungai Siput, Perak, no more than 50 people are allowed,” she said at a press conference today.
As for other temples, the number of people involved in the “paal koodam” should not exceed 30.
She said devotees participating in the “paal koodam” procession were required to register with the temple management and use the provided tags.
Halimah said prayer ceremony sessions and chariot processions were allowed according to the SOPs.
Twelve prayer sessions have been set from Jan 16 to 17 and Jan 19 from 5am to 5pm, while 18 sessions are set for Jan 18 from 5am to 11pm, with the number of people allowed set according to the respective temples.
“At the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves, there will be no more than 6,000 people on each day. Each 30-minute prayer session will be followed by a sanitisation process, with the total number of people for each session in the temple not exceeding 500.
“Besides that, only members of the temple management are allowed to accompany the chariot, and they must register with the temple management to get permission tags, and also need approval from the police,” she said, adding that the complete SOPs for Thaipusam would be uploaded on the National Security Council website.
Halimah said any temple found to have Covid-19 cases would be instructed to cancel its Thaipusam ceremonies.
She said although the festival would be celebrated by Hindus on Jan 18, there were devotees who fulfilled their vows before the date.
“If there is a case involving the Thaipusam ceremony on any of the earlier dates of Jan 14 to 17 and 18, we will ask (the temple) to stop (the ceremonies) and cancel them. Only that particular temple (affected by Covid-19 cases) will be closed,” she said.
She also reminded temple managements to allow only permanent stalls under their purview to operate during the festival. The handing out of free food and drinks (thanir phandal and anamthanam) is not allowed.
Temporary stalls for promotions or sales inside or outside the temple area are also not allowed.