Thaipusam festival, Johor Bahru, 9th Feb 2017

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As I approached Taman Merdeka for my morning tai chi in the park, I found the carpark was closed off and red ribbons were being laid out from end to end. Preparations were underway for the Thaipusam festival, so I did my exercise then returned to the carpark to watch the proceedings. Sadly, I did not have my camera with me, just my iPhone, so will have to come back again next year to better record this colourful event.

The day of Thaipusam is a Bank Holiday here in Malaysia, and the festivities here in Johor Bahru appear to be a little more subdued than those in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, where body piercing features more strongly. In the following video of the procession heading off to the main road and the Hindu temple beyond, look closely and you will see a man with his cheeks pierced.

Nine percent of the Malaysian population are ethnic Indians ( Many came to Malaysia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to work as labourers on British-run rubber plantations. For the majority Hindu component, Thiapusam is one of the most important festivals of the year. 

After the parade had left the area, all that remained were lots of lonely bananas which were collected up by other devotees. The parade left the park and headed for the main road (Jalan Kolam Ayer) to get to the Hindu temple which is about 15 min away at normal walking speed. Everyone then enjoys a vegetarian lunch at the temple.

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I understand that similar processions occur at other Hindu temples in Johor Bahru, so if you live here, then do try and observe this colourful occasion at the temple nearest to you. The largest event will be at the Sri Raja Mariamman Temple in Jalan Tun Abdul Razak, in central Johor Bahru. From here, the devotees process to the Murugan temple at Jalan Kuala, which is at Wadihana (near the glass temple). My thanks to Suresh Kumar for this extra information.

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