Friday, Feb 07

Your Perfect Guide on Thaipusam Festival in Malaysia

By Nur Azim Syukri Hamzah

 Devotee or worshiper circling around the temple in colorful clothing
Photo credit: IG – siva_wwc

Where will Thaipusam take place?

The celebrations will take place on a grand scale at the Batu Caves (Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple) just outside of Kuala Lumpur. Besides the Batu Caves, Hindus also gather at the Balathan­dayuthapani Temple or Waterfall Hill Temple in Penang, the Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple in Sungai Petani (Kedah), and the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Ipoh (Perak). Even though Thaipusam is celebrated in South India. Thaipusam is celebrated across Singapore, Sri Lanka, India, and Indonesia though we are quite sure that nowhere else in the world is the festival celebrated as incredibly as the one in Malaysia.

Devotees clad in bright colors clothing carrying offerings such as milk and kavadis, in a carnival-like atmosphere filled with thumping drumbeats and chanting
Photo credit: IG @_safwans/

What to expect celebrating Thaipusam in Batu Caves?

If you want the full Thaipusam experience, you should head straight to Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves where you can witness more than one million devotees make the pilgrimage up the 272 steps to reach the temple in Batu Caves. Along with the worshippers, tens of thousands of both local and foreign tourists attend too. Expect congestion from the offset and crowded streets until it ends later in the night. Kuala Lumpur’s weather will be hot, sticky and feel especially stifling in the crowds. When at Batu Caves, prepare for seeing the sights of men heavily burdened with skewers and piercings.

millions of Hindus devotees carrying their offerings proceed to make the pilgrimage up the 272 steps to reach the temple in Batu Caves.

The Art Of Body Piercing 

Men carrying  elaborately-decorated frames called the kavadi affixed to their bodies using multiple hooks dug into the skin
Photo credit: IG @_safwans/

Male pilgrims will have metal skewers and hooks pierced on their backs and spears pricked through their cheeks. Some worshippers have heavy pots and fruits hanging from their bodies with hooks while others bear kavadis elaborately decorated with flowers and peacock feathers. Decorated frames are called kavadi and affixed to their bodies using multiple hooks and dug into the skin. Kavadis can be anything from a small brass pot of milk to steel frames reaching a weight of around 80 kilograms

Men carrying  elaborately-decorated frames called the kavadi affixed to their bodies using multiple hooks dug into the skin
Photo credit: IG @_safwans/

At least a week leading up to Thaipusam, male pilgrims bearing the kavadi are required to observe a supreme physical and mental regime. Celibacy, special prayers, and a strict vegetarian diet go into the preparation of being a kavadi bearer. It is an act of cleansing oneself and fending off all temptations for luxury and desire. The preparation is said to allow the male pilgrims to purify themselves before their encounter with the Divine. While the male pilgrims bear the kavadi, women and young pilgrims would carry the paal kudam (milk offering), another popular form of offerings. Usually held on the head using an arm to support the milk pot, the milk (paal) in a pot (kudam) is offered to Lord Murugan through Paal Abhishegam, a Hindu ritual performed by the priest.

an Indian woman carrying offerings of small milk pots, called pal kodum while climbing stairs
Photo credit: IG @_safwans/

Extra Tips On Celebrating Thaipusam at Batu Caves

A thing you should plan ahead if you are planning to experience Thaipusam in Batu caves this year is your transportation. We advise taking public transportation to and fro the venue and spare yourself the headache of getting stuck in traffic congestion and trying to find parking spots. Some people like to visit Batu Caves at night during Thaipusam when the crowds are thinner and the air is less humid, but we recommend you stop by during the day when the atmosphere is more electrifying. This is also the best time for photos when things are very colorful and busy. Our advice is you should easily book a grab or you catch a KTM train and easily walk to the temple without any hassle. The perfect and easier method is booking a day tour to Batu Caves with us. Also, expect large crowds ascending and descending the 272 steps of Batu Caves, so it’s important to always keep your distance from the devotee.

a rainbow and colorful 272 steps leading to the Temple Cave
Photo credit: IG @steven.davignon

There you go, your full guide on the Thaipusam Festival. If you’d like to get the best experience out of your buck during your time here in Malaysia, we have many more personalised experiences for you to enjoy!

an Indian father pours water into his son’s head before getting ready for the pilgrimage
Photo credit: IG @_safwans/



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