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Thaipusam festival guide Malaysia





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The Hindu ceremony of Thaipusam is not for the faint hearted – it is a visually startling experience involving a deafening and colourful procession and an abundance of body piercing. The festival takes place every year in February.

In our previous post, the curious travel team at Budget Direct Insurance offered your ultimate trip planner to Thaipusam in Singapore. But if you want to see the Thaipusam festival on a staggering scale, then head for Malaysia. Either Kuala Lumpur or the island of Penang. Here’s what you need to know:

Thaipusam - Kuala Lumpur

Back in 2007, the festival attracted 1.5 million visitors to the Malaysian capital, making it one of the largest gatherings in history! Each year, the event begins with an eight hour procession from the centre of KL and culminates in a 272 step climb to the top of the Batu Cave, situated around 13 km north of the city. Devotees carry burdens and display many body piercings.

As they reach the top of the steps, priests attend them. Consecrated ash is sprinkled over the hooks and skewers piercing the pilgrim’s flesh before they are removed. No blood is shed during the piercing and removal. Fire walking and flagellation are also practiced along the route, although those taking part claim to be in a trance that renders them unable to feel pain or even bleed.

Thaipusam - Penang

On the Malaysian island of Penang the Thaipusam festival is celebrated on a large scale. Those in the procession or pilgrimage carry a silver chariot with a statue of Lord Muruga. The procession follows a path of broken coconuts placed on the route the day before. Stalls spring up and local families give out water, fruit and sweets. Thunderous music, singing, beating of the drums and dancing accompany the procession.

Quick Facts

This year, the Thaipusam ceremony takes place in Malaysia on February 9th and is a public holiday. The best way to travel to the caves during the festival time is by Kommuter train which runs 24-hours from the centre of KL throughout the weekend. The train takes around 40 minutes and costs less than S$1. Bargain!

If you drive to Penang, expect a 10-12 hour journey on highways and expressways. You will travel along Southeast Asia’s longest bridge - The Sultan Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah Bridge - or Penang Second Bridge across the water to Penang. The bridge is 24 km long!

More information on Thaipusam in Malaysia here.

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