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Deeper meaning to Thaipusam

Sacrifices and rituals give form to Tamils throughout the world but the meaning of Thaipusam goes much deeper than this.

P Ramasamy
2 minute read

Thaipusam, which falls on the month of the Tamil calendar Thai, is an auspicious event for Tamils, the descendants of the Dravidian race. 

It falls either in January or February, according to the English calendar. 

Thaipusam is essentially a celebration to pay homage to the Tamil god Lord Murugan, and not confined to just sacrifices and rituals. 

These are important and give form and meaning to Tamils across the globe, but the meaning of Thaipusam goes beyond the rituals and sacrifices. 

The fever and passion linked to Thaipusam is all about remembering the glorious past of the Tamils, harking back 3,000 to 4,000 years ago, long before the advent of the Indo-European migration to parts of the Indian subcontinent. 

The traditional Tamil gods, Lord Muruga and Siva, are closely identified with the beginnings of Dravidian/Tamil civilisation. 

Much later, these gods came to be included within Hinduism as propagated by the Brahminical religious order. 

While it is difficult to differentiate between the elements of Dravidian worship and the present Brahminical ideology of Hinduism, the Tamils think and act on grounds that their culture, language and religion predate the arrival of the Indo-European, sometimes referred to as the Aryans. 

The pride in Thaipusam, both conscious and unconscious, is predicated on the thought that the worship of Lord Muruga is something immemorial. 

It goes beyond the Brahmincal cultural and religious order that was superimposed much later. 

Essentially, the worship of Lord Muruga is about remembering the Tamil past, the originality of their god and, most importantly, the phenomenon that gives them meaning and identity in the present world. 

Thaipusam outwardly might have the appearance of past rituals in worship, the nature of human sacrifices and others. 

However, in particular societies where Tamils are an ethnic and discriminated minority, Thaipusam holds a special significance. 

It is about asserting their cultural and religious rights in an environment that might not be friendly or cordial to the propagation of their culture, language and religion. 

Thaipusam is seen through the rituals and sacrifices to Lord Muruga as something needed to dignify the community. 

Thaipusam is as much about the past as it is about the present. 

In a sense, Thaipusam provides the Tamils the room and space otherwise not available to exert their cultural and religious rights. 

Lord Muruga with his vel (spear) is seen as the epitome of the sacrifice required by the Tamils to propagate themselves as a race guided and protected by their supreme God. 

The sound of chants Vetri Vel Muruganku represent the loyalty and devotion of Tamils to their supreme being, Lord Muruga. 

When all else fails, Lord Muruga with his omnipresence is there to guide the Tamils, in both the spiritual or material sense.

Equating Thaipusam merely to the mundanity of rituals and the forms of sacrifices misses the powerful meaning that the celebration has for the Tamils, their survival against the odds, and most importantly, their existence in the world today.

P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II and the assemblyman for Perai. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow. 

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