The start of 2017 has been like a whirlwind of festivities. This week Hindu devotees of Lord Murugan, son of creator Lord Shiva, celebrate Thaipusam. It is a festival with very particular traditions, and gathers not only devotees but many curious observers to the main shrine at Batu Caves.
While Thaipusam is an amazing cultural experience to enjoy with kids, some practical tips will help to make the trip more enjoyable:
- Always try to go early, a combination of the mid-day sun and heaving crowds is never a good thing, especially with children.
- The celebration falls on 9th of February this year but you can go a few days earlier as it will already start getting festive. Going earlier may also give you the opportunity to climb right to the top of the 272 steps to the inner sanctum. On the day itself, you will be jostling with way too many people.
- Of course, it will be very atmospheric on the 9th with a multitude of kavadis which are milk pots carried on decorated wooden arches. The sizes of kavadis vary and many are very colourful.
- Also a sight to behold will be the devotees, some who may have piercings on their bodies. My children were fascinated by the sight last year but I did prepare them beforehand with pictures of what to expect.
- If going on the day itself, it may be better to enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere at the base, because you can get locked by the crowds on the stairs for hours.
- Don’t forget hat, water and sun-block.
- Another option is to go at night, it’s cooler and the larger kavadis are all lit up, so it is very lovely. A good vantage point will be the Batu Caves river bank. However, you may have to wait longer for the kavadis and it may drag on a little too late for the young ones.
What to Wear
- As with most religious places and events, dress modestly. Devotees tend to wear yellow.
How to Get There
- Parking – as you can imagine – is going to be a nightmare which reinforces the first point: go early. Parking in a single file on the road heading towards the temple is allowed but don’t be surprised to see the cars snaking miles before the temple. The other option is to drive pass the temple, pass the Sivanandasram of the Divine Life Society and the row of shops after that may have some parking. It’s hit and miss due to the crowds.
- Uber or Grab is an option to get to the temple but we are not sure if any sane driver will want to drive through the underpass to the gates to pick you up, so you will probably need to cross the road to get a ride home.
- Batu Caves is accessible via the Batu Caves KTM Komuter but during Thaipusam, it also gets pretty busy.
What to Do
- If you have time, apart from the giant golden Lord Muruga statue, try to get a glimpse of the giant Hanuman statue which is towards the Komuter entrance – it is quite a sight to behold.
- Enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere and by the numerous little stalls that ply snacks, toys and books of all manner. Some picks here last year were peacock feathers, cotton shawls, brass pots and a book on yoga.
- Lots of volunteer activities – many fundraising activities if you wish to contribute. The Sivanandasram of the Divine Life Society offers free food for devotees and always welcomes donations.
- Some stalls offer free food and drinks. There is usually moru or buttermilk on offer – do try, it cools parched throats.
Read also this good guide to Thaipusam by Time Out!