Photography has again allowed me to see a different side of my multi-cultural multi-religious society in Singapore in my coverage of the Silver Chariot Ceremony that takes place the day before Thaipusam.
According to Infopedia, the Hindu festival commemorates the feats of the Hindu God, Lord Subramaniam son of Lord Siva. It also acknowledges Subramaniam's triumph over the evil forces. According to the legend, Lord Siva sent his son Subramaniam to help the or celestial beings conquer the or demons. After accomplishing this task, the victorious Subramaniam was believed to have appeared before his devotees. In the vision, he was bedecked with brilliant jewels, armed with a golden spear and seated on a chariot. Thus, on Thaipusam day, Lord Subramaniam's image, adorned and decorated, is placed on a silver chariot before his devotees. This is then taken in a procession the day before. Besides being acknowledged as a symbol of virtue, bravery, youth and beauty, the Hindus believe that Lord Subramaniam is also the universal dispenser of favours. Hence, some who have made vows and pledges to Lord Subramaniam prove their gratitude to him by undergoing self-mortification on Thaipusam day.
The silver chariot procession started at around 5a.m. at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple better known as the Chettiars' Temple at Tank Road (more info at http://www.sttemple.com/index.asp) with devotees walking down the road along Fort Canning before passing by the National Museum, down the road towards St. Andrew's Cathedral, round about past the Padang before taking the road along MICA building before heading down to Pickering Street and moving down towards Singapore's oldest Hindu Temple i.e. the Sri Mariamman Temple, South Bridge Road (more info at Hindu Endowment Board website) at around 7a.m.
I am truly humbled by the experience as many of the devotees walked bare foot the entire journey. For me, it was basically a half-jog all the way as the silver chariot moved at a steady speed of some 20-40km/hr with the traffic police closing the roads as the procession went along. I was thoroughly tired after this experience but brought back with me memories of a totally different side of my home country as a result.
Till the next time, onto the world and beyond!