Singaporean Hindus rejoice in having more allowances for this year’s Thaipusam

Over the past years, local Hindu devotees haven’t exactly seen eye to eye with the Hindu Endowments Board (HEB) statutory body when it comes to the annual Thaipusam procession in town. There have been clashes between devotees and the authorities that saw violence, arrests, and imprisonment — all over strict rules against musical instruments being played during the outdoor religious procession.

This year’s Thaipusam however, might see happier Hindus. Facebook user Isaac Kanages posted a picture of a circular apparently handed out by the Hindu Endowment Board regarding the rules for religious singers for Thaipusam 2019, and it appears to be that the rules are being eased.

Since 1973, musical instruments have been prohibited during Thaipusam processions, in which Hindus here carry Kavadis from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India through the city center to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road. Police disallowed the use of music during processions to deter public disorder, which may be caused by rivalries between groups, and to “minimize the impact of the procession along the procession route”.

This has not sat well with local devotees. The annual Thaipusam procession is an important event in the Hindu calendar after all, and having prohibitions on what they can or cannot do might be dampening the spirits for what is meant to be a vibrant, colorful festival.

Following the riotous Thaipusam clash of 2015, the authorities moved to relax the rules after receiving feedback from the Hindu community. And if what Kanages posted is true, HEB has made large strides in appeasing the community with special provisions. Religious songs are allowed to be broadcast at 35 static music points, up from 23 last year. There’ll be spots where performers can play the urumi drums and nadaswaram instruments.

Singers this year are also allowed to have kanjira handheld drums with them, as well as an additional percussion instrument of the HEB’s choosing. More importantly, music can now start as early as 7am instead of 8am as in previous years.

No amplification devices are allowed though, which was a cause of contention last Thaipusam when the police had to intervene in a group’s procession for being “too loud”.

Photo: Isaac Kanages / Facebook
Photo: Isaac Kanages / Facebook

“A great news to all of us”

Kanages expressed her appreciation for all the people who helped to push for more allowances, including the Chinese Singaporean who launched a protest at Hong Lim Park against the rules prohibiting music being played during the procession.

“I sincerely hope that we Hindus who are celebrating Thaipusam solely for religious purpose will travel this journey with dignity and not ABUSE this golden opportunity given to us,” wrote Kanages. “Let’s all value the chance given to us to uphold the divinity of this day.”

The festival will take place on Jan 21, confirmed the HEB today.

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