It is Thaipusam today, recognised as a public holiday in selected states of Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur.
An amalgamation of the Tamil words thai (month) and pusam (star), this Hindu religious festival is celebrated in high spirits, and marked with penance, prayer, reverence, sacrifice, thanksgiving, and worship.
The entire event takes place over three days.
In a way it reminds me of how Holy Week is celebrated.
Thaipusam is dedicated to Lord Murugan, otherwise known as Lord Subramaniam, who is the Hindu god of war and son of creator Lord Shiva.
Thousands of devotees here make the annual pilgrimage to Batu Caves, which is located at a limestone hill in Selangor. It involves an uphill trek of 272 steps, or approximately 100 metres, to reach the Sri Subramaniar temple at the top.
This statue of Lord Murugan is the second tallest in the world.
I have never personally observed the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves due to the huge crowd, preferring a leisurely pace when sightseeing, although I have visited the place before.
In fact, I have been to Batu Caves three times, and made the uphill trek twice. During the first time, thieving monkeys had terrorised visitors by aggressively snatching plastic bags of food from all directions. Thankfully, by the second time, those monkeys had been noticeably absent.
Do include a trip to Batu Caves when you visit Malaysia. For a more comfortable climb, wear light clothing, appropriate shoes, and a hat. Bind long hair. Use a good sunscreen. Bring along a bottle of drinking water and a pack of moist towelettes. Use the toilets located at the base of the hill before making the trek, as there are none at the top.
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