Thaipoosam is a festival celebrated on the full moon day or purnima of the Tamil month of Thai by Tamil and Malyali communities. It is known as Thaipooyam in Kerala. It is not only celebrated in India, but is also celebrated in some other parts of World, especially South-East Asia region. Thaipoosam is celebrated in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Thailand, Mauritius and some other countries like Canada and South Africa where a large Tamil community leaves. The word Thaipoosam is made from two words “Thai”,which is the name of the month and “poosam”, which is the name of a star. Poosam is the star which is in it’s highest position during the whole festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Goddess Parvati gave Lord Murugan a Vel or “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. It is also commonly believed that Thaipusam marks Lord Murugan’s birthday.
There is a very interesting story behind the celebration of Thaipoosam. It is believed that once a war occurred between Devas (the Demigods) and the Asuras (the Demons). In this war, Devas lost several times to Asuras. They found that the reason behind there defeat was a lack of efficient leadership. Devas went to Lord Shiva and prayed that he must give them a heroic leader who would help them in winning the war against the Asuras. Lord Shiva created Skanda for this purpose and Skanda helped the Devas to defeat the Asuras and thus this day is celebrated is Thaipoosam. Lord Skanda is also known as Lord Murugan and Lord Kartikey.
According to the Skanda Purana, Lord Murugan is the symbol of Shiva’s light and wisdom. He is also believed as a divine vanquisher of evil. Thus the motive of this festival is to pray to god so bad traits present inside the human is destroyed.
Kavadi Attam : Sacrifice to God –
During the festival of Thaipoosam, Kavadi Attam is a devotional sacrifice to god through dance, music, food offerings and bodily and spiritual modification. The Kavadi is a semicircular, decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that the pilgrim carries on their shoulders to the temple. Then the devotees have to reach the temple barefoot and Kavadi on their shoulder, the journey to the temple could even more than a 1 week depending on the location of the temple.
Devotees need to keep their body clean, do regular prayers, follow strict vegetarian diets during the whole journey. They also fast before the day of Thaipoosam. There is also a tradition of shaving heads on the day of the Thaipoosam. Nowadays, a tradition of piercing some of the body parts through vel skewers is also common. The pilgrims believe that the whole pilgrimage helps them to make physically and mentally healthy.
Celebration In India –
In India, a 10 days festival (Brahmotsavam) is celebrated during Thaipoosam in the famous Palani Sri Dhandayuthapani temple. In these 10 days festival, Celestial Wedding (Thirukalyanam) is held one day before the Thaipoosam. Tandava Darshanam Arti is performed during the Thaipoosam in Chidambaram Panchmurthi temple, Tirthavari.
In the famous Mylapore Kapaleeswarar Temple, a 3 days Theppotsavam is held during the festival of Thaipoosam Poornima. At the Linga Bhairavi temple in Coimbatore, a 21 days Sadhna is practiced by the devotees which end on the day of Thaipoosam.
Celebration outside India –
Thaipoosam is also celebrated in some other parts of the world, where there is a large Tamil community living. It is celebrated in some southeast Asian countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives, Mauritius and some other countries like the USA due to large no. of Tamil people. Thaipoosam is marked as a public holiday in Sri Lanka, the Maldives and some parts of Malaysia. In Singapore, Thaipoosam is celebrated in the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple. In the USA, the festival of Thaipoosam is celebrated in the Murugan Shiva Temple of Concord, California.
Thaipoosam is celebrated by the Tamil and Malayali community peoples. It is a festival in which Lord Murugan (or Skanda or Kartikeya) is worshiped. People believe that this festival helps in making them physically and mentally strong and helps in their spiritual awakening. There is also a tradition of traveling long distances to Temple barefoot holding Kavadi. The pilgrim could even take more than a week. Thaipoosam is celebrated in many countries of Southeast Asia due to the presence of Tamil culture. It is also celebrated in some western countries like USA and Canada due to a Tamil population residing there. Even in some countries like Sri Lanka and Malaysia, an official holiday is given on the day of Thaipoosam. A lot of people from the Tamil community in India and even outside India celebrates the festival of Thaipoosam and prays to god for the removal of bad traits from inside of them.