Saturday, January 21, 2017

Ben Hur's of Penang

Star Online on the Penang Thaipusam chariot race (extracts):

chariot race in Ben Hur (movie) 

GEORGE TOWN: Penang’s battle of the Thaipusam chariots just got uglier. The Nattukotai Chettiars are hoping to bring forward the start of their usual silver chariot procession to the night of Feb 7 instead of the morning of Feb 8 as earlier planned.

The rival Penang Hindu Endow­ment Board’s golden chariot had been scheduled to leave early in the morning of Feb 8, ahead of the silver chariot. 

According to earlier plans, the silver chariot was supposed to leave kovil veedu in Penang Street about 90 minutes after the golden chariot operated by the Penang Hindu Endowment Board leaves the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in nearby Queen Street.

PHEB golden chariot  

At a press conference yesterday, board chairman Dr P. Ramasamy vented his anger at the chettiars’ move to seek permission from the police to bring forward the silver chariot procession to 11pm on Feb 7 from the original 6.30am on Feb 8.

He said it was irresponsible to change the timing of the procession without both sides agreeing to it.

Dr Ramasamy, who is Deputy Chief Minister II, said the timing of the processions was discussed with the police on Jan 11 during a meeting to sort out traffic, safety and other issues.

“There was no objection by the chettiars during the meeting and nothing was raised during the state Thaipusam coordination committee meeting on Thursday as well.

“The set time must be adhered to. If not, there will be issues with the other agencies involved in the procession,” Dr Ramasamy said.

Nattukotai Chettiars silver chariot 

We must read an illuminating letter to Malaysiakini by Markend D. Joshi titled The significance of the golden chariot.

But to be open about the Ben Hur tussle in Penang between our local Charleston Heston and Stephen Boyd, wakakaka, Markend D. Joshi is a commissioner of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) but nonetheless he has written a nice conciliating article in his letter to Malaysiakini about the two Thaipusam chariots.

Markend brilliantly explained that both chariots actually complement each other in the Penang Thaipusam religious celebrations, a win-win situation for the Hindu Thaipusam celebration, so to speak. His letter in full follows:

Chinese devotees for Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, etc

but why not for Islam?

The Golden Chariot will carry the symbolic ‘Vel’ from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street on Feb 8, 2017 starting at 5am.

The practice of carrying the ‘Vel’ from the Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street to the Hill Top Temple is nothing new as it has been going on since many decades, but its mode of transport previously was by car and later lorry. Many people are not aware of this.

The practice of carrying out a ‘Vel’, also known as ‘Shakti Vel’, on Thaipusam day to the Waterfall Hill Top Temple signifies that ‘Goddess Parvathi’ (Amman), consort of ‘Lord Shiva” gave this weapon to Lord ‘Subramanian’ to defeat the Asuras (Demons). The PHEB is only enhancing its mode of transport into the Golden Chariot which will be pulled by volunteer devotees, giving the ‘Vel’ its due respect.

The Silver Chariot carrying ‘Lord Muruga’ from ‘Koil Vedu” to the Waterfall Chettiar Temple will go on as usual. The PHEB has asked the cooperation of the Chettiar community and don’t you think it will be such a beautiful sight to see the ‘Shakti Vel’ as the special weapon of Lord ‘Muruga’ in a Golden Chariot followed by the Silver Chariot with Lord ‘Muruga’.

As a commissioner of PHEB and in charge of the Sri Kunj Bihari Temple and on behalf all its devotees, I fully support the efforts of PHEB.

The chairperson of PHEB, YB Prof Dr P Ramasamy, has been carrying out the decisions of the board and asked the Chettiars for their cooperation. As such let’s all work towards a peaceful Thaipusam with its due glory.

As Penangites, let’s make the Thaipusam a celebration not only a religious one but also keep attracting tourists to this wonderful and meaningful event especially with the Hill Top Temple winning accolades from Trip Advisor, being one of the largest Murugan (Lord Balathanyuthapani) temples outside India.

But alas, the Nattukotai Chettiars have radically changed its planned schedule, putting its procession ahead and 6 hours before the PHEB's golden chariot is supposed to begin its procession.

Based on Markend's explanation, that means the Nattukotai Chettiars will be sending Lord Muruga to face Soorapadman the Asura without a weapon.

How then would Lord Muruga re-enact his splitting of the mango tree that Soorapadman disguised himself into after running away from Lord Muruga, whereafter each half of the tree turned into a peacock and cockerel respectively?

no escape for Soorapadman 

[Oh, BTW, don't be confused between the term 'Asuras' and 'Apsaras'.

'Asuras' are demons in the Hindu supernatural pantheon while the latter, 'Apsaras' are delightful gorgeous divine angel-like spirits of the clouds and water, supernatural sweeties, wakakaka]


bridge in Angkor Thom (next to Angkor Wat)
Siemreap, Khmer Republic

sweeties (Apsaras) on one side and nasties (Asuras) on the other 

who would be the sweeties and nasties?

can you work out the difference?

It sounds like the Nattukotai Chettiars may be playing one-upmanship with the PHEB in the Ben Hur-like race but alas, in the process has forgotten that Thaipusam is the annual celebration by Tamils of Skanda's (Lord Muruga's) victory over the demon Soorapadman.

Hah, has Hindu politics by the Nattukotai Chettiars rendered the religious celebration of Thaipusam meaningless?

Why is the Nattukotai Chettiars playing silly buggers?

[Oh, BTW, 'playing silly buggers' means 'To act in a stupid or reckless manner']

The allegations, coming from local Tamils, is that the Nattukotai Chettiars are dominated by foreigners who insist on exercising their presumably higher caste prerogative, one of which has been to deny local Tamils and also non-Nattukottai Chettiars from access into the Kovil Veedu (Temple House) at Market Street.

Whoa man, I hope that's not true because we Malaysians would have no truck of that stupid class-oppressive caste distinction.

And indeed if true, which I hope is not, then the Nattukotai Chettiars taking oppressive advantage of Malaysian Tamils by the unacceptable caste c%nt-czarism should fuck off back to India where bullsh*t stuff as social caste began and is said to still exist unofficially.

in India, higher caste men have raped  women and girls of the so-called untouchables (pariahs), showing that where lust was concerned, f**k caste (excuse the pun) 

For a story involving another Nattukotai Chettiars' temple in Penang, read my post Birch House Penang - how the British coopted a Taoist god to suppress Indian deities at my other blog KTemoc Kongsamkok.

Nagarathar Sivan Temple
along Jalan Dato Keramat, Penang


  1. The word "ThaiPusam" is actually two words' Thai for the month and Pusam for the constellation. Thus this celebration should done when these to coincide. Maybe the Chettiars checked the actual timing while the politician did not!

    1. last minute astrology? by Brahmin experts from Bharata Mata?

    2. No; KT. One need not be an astrologer or a Bhahmin (both whom I desert); but just have some knowledge on Hinduism. Why not check when Thaipusam should be actually held in regard to the Indian Alamac; with a Brahmin astrologer of your choosing. He need not be even from Bharata Mata.

    3. the last minute change for the Chettiars' silver chariot to precede the golden chariot smacks of one-upmanship, wakakaka

  2. "Chinese devotees for Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Shintoism, Confucianism, etc but why not for Islam?"

    Perhaps, you should ask that question to Datuk Mahaguru Ibrahim Mat Zin - Raja Bomoh who breaks watermelons to shoo away the hot dry weather?

  3. P. Ramasamy is not an innocent party in this issue.
    For a number of years, he has been carrying out a personal empire building exercise in the PHEB.

    Turning what was previously light-handed State Government oversight of the PHEB under BN into overbearing domination of the PHEB board. It is not so much DAP but Ramasamy's personal power grab.

    The Nattukotai Chettiar move is showing a deliberate snub and antiphaty towards Ramasamy Palani's politicisation of a religious administration.

    1. you're correct in your remark of 'light-handed State Government oversight of the PHEB under BN' but which was probably due to lack of BN (MIC?) interest rather than oversight

      would caste consideration be involved?