Hindus observe Thaipusam festival in Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Thousands of people from the ethnic Malaysian-Indian community thronged the hill-top shrine at Batu caves near here to celebrate the Tamil Hindu festival of Thaipusam today. The festival, celebrated primarily by the Tamil sect of the Hindus, commemorates the occasion when mythological Hindu goddess Parvati gave his son Murugan a spear so that he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam. The festival is observed as a national holiday here as well as in some other states. Wishing the minority community on the occasion, Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed them to forge a close partnership for the country's as well as their own progress. "If we forge closer partnership between the Government and Indian community, more can be achieved," he said in his speech officiating the Thaipusam celebration at Batu Caves. He said the partnership must be based on mutual trust as expounded in the virtues of the Tamil word 'Nambikei', which means trust. Najid also announced an allocation of 2 million ringgits (USD 664,451) to set up an Indian cultural centre at the shrine. "We remain committed to fulfilling all our promises to the community and we will do what's needed to help people achieve their dreams," he wrote on his blog. Eight per cent of the population of a Muslim-dominated Malaysia comprises of ethnic Indians, mainly Tamil Hindus. Deputy Prime Minister Muyiuddin Yassin said Malaysians should be proud of the prevailing racial tolerance in the country, terming it the foundation for national unity and harmony. "We all must ensure that what we are enjoying now will continue to be enjoyed in future. Hence, it is the responsibility of all Malaysians to continue showing mutual respect on a platform of tolerance," he said in his message. Yassin also urged people to never view racial tolerance as trivial as "weak unity can develop into animosity," national news agency Bernama said. Besides Hindus, scores of local and foreign tourists too climbed the 172 steep steps and turned up in large numbers at the shrine which houses the Murugan temple atop a hill. Devotees carrying 'Kavadis' (wooden frames) weighing as much as 50 to 80 kilogrammes and those with their bodies pierced were seen climbing the steps to the shrine. In other major towns of Ipoh and Johor Baru as well, devotees paid obeisance in temples in large numbers and carried out religious processions.