Thaipusam or Thaipoosam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February).
It is a national holiday in many countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Fiji. In Singapore, it was a national holiday once but it was removed from Singapore holidays.
The word Thaipusam is a combination of the name of the month, Thai, and the name of a star, Pusam. This particular star is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. It is commonly believed that Thaipusam marks Murugan’s birthday; Some other sources suggest that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month (May/June), is Murugan’s birthday.
Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting for 48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and consumes only certain types of foods known as Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God. On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route, while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens).
At its simplest, this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common. The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks.”
In Palani Sri Dhandayuthapani temple, 10 day Festival (Brahmotsavam) is held during ThaiPusam. Thirukalyanam (Celestial Wedding) will be held on the day before Thaipusam. On Thaipusam, Therottam will be held. Lord Muthukumaraswamy will bless devotees in Thanga Guthirai Vahanam (Golden Horse), Periya Thanga Mayil Vahanam (Golden Peacock, Theppotsavam (Float Festival) during the 10 day festival
In Chidamabaram (Thillai) Panchamurthi Veedhi Ula, Thirthavari, Thaandava Darsanam Aarthi will be held on Thai Poosam. In Madurai Sri Meenakshi Amman Temple, Sri Meenakshi Sundareshwarar Theppotsavam (Float Festival) will be held at Mariammam Theppa Kulam. In Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple, 3 Day Theppotsavam will be held during ThaiPusam Pournami.
At the Linga Bhairavi temple in Coimbatore, devotees participate in a 21-day Shivanga sadhana, which ends on Thaipusam at the temple. Women offer kudam or pots of plants, grain and fruit, which they carry on their heads over a certain distance.