Religiously celebrated during the full moon in the tenth month of the Hindu calendar, Thaipusam is a significant event observed by the Hindu community in Malaysia. Catch sights of chariot procession and kavadi bearers at these official routes and locations in Penang.
Thaipusam Eve Jan 16 (6am-12midnight)
Little India to Jalan Dato Keramat
The ceremonial worship of Hindu's celebrated deity, Lord Muruga will begin with a silver chariot procession led by kavadis adorned with peacock features. The procession begins from Little India (6am) to the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple (ends at midnight).
Along the procession routes, coconuts are smashed onto the ground to fulfill sacred vows. The best place to catch the coconut smashing spectacle is on Jalan Dato Keramat, in front of Penang Times Square. Standby for the procession from 12noon onwards.
Thaipusam Day Jan 17 (3am-9.30pm)
Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple to Waterfall Hilltop Temple
Religiously performed on Thaipusam Day, devotees will have their bodies pierced with hooks and spears as an act of penance. The piercing ceremony of the kavadi bearers will take place at the Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple on Lorong Kulit (beside Rapid Penang office) from 3am onwards. The uphill journey to the new Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple (Waterfall Hilltop Temple) will begin right after. The best time to view the kavadis is from 3pm onwards. The final and bigger kavadi will climb up to the temple at 9.30pm.
Other devotees will also fullfil their vows by carrying Paal Kudam (milk pots) up to the Waterfall Hilltop Temple. The journey begins from Sri Muthu Mariamman Temple or the Shree Muniswarar Temple (at the junction of Jalan Utama, Jalan Kebun Bunga and Jalan Gottlieb).
For free refreshments and vegetarian food, visit one of the 130 festively decorated Thaneer Panthals (make shift stalls) along the pilgrimage route. More stalls are placed along Jalan Utama to Jalan Air Terjun (Waterfall Road).
The Day after Thaipusam Jan 18 (6pm-5am)
Kovil Veedu temple house to Nattukottai Chettiar Temple
The Silver Chariot of Lord Muruga makes a return trip from the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple (6pm) to the Kovil Veedu temple house on Lebuh Penang via a different route. The chariot is expected to reach at dawn, on the next day (Jan 19) accompanied by the coconut smashing ritual and offerings of fruits, flowers and incense on a Thaambalam (big silver plate).
Keep in mind these handy and helpful tips for smooth-sailing Thaipusam week.
Transportation and parking
Ferry services (from mainland to island) will operate for 24 hours on Jan 16-18. Rapid Penang buses will extend their services from 5pm-1am (Jan 16) and 5am-1am (Jan 17). Ten shuttle buses will be in service from the jetty to Tanjung Medical Centre.
Parking will be a challenge on Thaipusam Day (Jan 17). Avoid parking spots along the streets and lanes closest to the festival location. Go to designated parking spots along Lebuh Union, Lebuh Pantai, Lebuh Pasar, Padang Kota Lama and Jalan Hutton.
Two first aid booths will be located in Waterfall Temple compound and up the hill at Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple. There will also be a fire brigade and 24-hour police patrol at these two festival areas.
20 male and female toilets are available in the Waterfall Temple's compound (behind Arulmigu Sree Ganesha Temple). There are also mobile toilets at Jalan Utama, Jalan Kebun Bunga and Jalan Gottlieb.
An information booth will be located at the Waterfall Temple office (near Arulmigu Sree Ganeshar Temple).