Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Panguni Uthiram

The Hindu festival of Panguni Uthiram falls on the the last month in the Tamil solar calendar called Panguni. It falls on the full moon when the stars Uthiram and Pournami are seen together, this will be either in March or April.

It is an extremely important festival for Tamil Hindus, when many significant figures in the Hindu faith married. Parvati and Parameswara (Lord Shiva), Murugan and Deivanai, Aandaal and Rangamannar. I've heard of Shiva, Parvati and Murugan but can't claim to know the others or what they represent. Panguni Uthiram is all about marriage and relationships. Throughout the festival they celebrate marriage, the beginning of relationships and ask for issues in a marriage to be sorted. 

On the eve of the festival a procession of silver chariots will travel along a route to a Murugan temple and on the festival day it's self, devotees will wear heavy kavadis, pierce themselves and/or carry metal bowls containing milk or water and walk along the procession route to the temple, some even wearing shoes of nails. Here in Singapore the procession starts from Canberra Drive to the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar temple in Yishan in the north of Singapore.

Visually this is very similar to the Thaipusam festival I've witnessed twice now in Little India.    Although similar to Thaipusam it is on a much smaller scale and much more local. Unlike Thaipsusan in little India this is not accompanied by hundreds of tourists, indeed we only spotted one other western lady the few hours we enjoyed soaking in the preparations. After a little trepidation of whether we would be welcome, we were greeted by a devotee, who had just finished his walk and was encouraged to come along and enjoy. Just like in Little India people couldn't have been more welcoming, encouraging us to take photos, smiling and posing, the whole atmosphere was of that of a happy joyful celebration. 

I've heard that over recent years the festival has been restricted and noise levels greatly reduced, that saying I wonder what it was once like as music came from various positions along the route, each seemingly trying to out do the other and in the tent at the beginning it was deafening!!! Drums and various instruments were played as the devotees prepared themselves and those with the heavy kavadis danced and swirled around. The noise could be felt throughout your body, totally deafening but all helping to wrap you up in the moment. 

Again I can't thank the wonderful friendly Indians for making us so welcome. A loud, vibrant, exciting, friendly, frenetic, happy experience with such welcoming people.

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