Source: Pradeep Thana Facebook account video screengrab.

Devotee beseech SPF for resolution on music at Thaipusam, warns festival will be eradicated from how things are progressing

by Prakash Ramdas, (This post first appeared as a response to Singapore Police Force’s clarification on the incident that transpired on Thaipusam 2018)

According to this post, my SPF believes a good night’s sleep for 1 resident is more important than the religious practices of an official founding community of Singapore.

Music is an intrinsic part of how Hindu Tamils worship. The music is not foremostly for the bearer. It is played and sung primarily for the worship of the deity which the bearer carries.

This is why there is music at all Hindu prayers be it at home or temple or elsewhere. In particular for a festival atmosphere that is Thaipusam, music is all the more crucial. It is the symbol through sound that a festival is in place for our Gods. When it is absent, Hindus associate this with inauspiciousness. That the deity is journeying in silence is a bad omen. Many other cultures have this same logic.

Each kavadi or kudam(milk pot) during Thaipusam is a symbolic embodiment of the Lord.

This is why stopping the kavadi or kudam mid procession is a sensitive point for Tamil Hindus. It is similar to stopping a public mass mid worship and conducting a police investigation. This is why it is offensive to see a HEB volunteer who is a Tamil Hindu disregard these sentiments. It is not an affront to the supporters themselves but they might view it as an insult to the deity being carried and the bearer. This now becomes a religiously sensitive incident which can be viewed as instigated by the HEB and SPF themselves. This is why you are having so many escalated incidents on route. None of these people intend to break the law. But when you block their path or offend their religious freedom, people will react.

The music is in worship of the particular deity that is carried on or as the kavadi/kudam from temple to temple. It is this symbolic journey of the kavadi/kudam and the milk carried that Tamil Hindus believe to have pleased and appeased our deities. To have the kavadi/kudam journey in silence is an affront to our beliefs and our festival. This is why it will always be an issue as long as this unsubstantiated ban is in place.

I implore the SPF to find out more about the festival it seeks to control and manage. Singaporean Tamil Hindus are not being unreasonable. We are your fellow countrymen. We served and serve this nation together. There are very good reasons for us continuously fighting ONLY THIS LAW year after year. We are not insane to do this for nothing. You don’t see us complaining about bans for alcohol in little India or in the festival do you?

Is your issue public disorder possibilities as previously claimed since the 1960s or is it the good night’s sleep for residents as you now claim? I for one believe residents in little India can put up with Indian music for an Indian festival for 24 hours.

I am confident if this or any family knew they were doing something wrong they would have apologised and moved on. No one really truly intends to break the law using their children in traditional dress and flowers at 4am do they?

Find a resolution with us, please. Because the way it is going, you are going to eradicate a festival that has been here maybe even before colonial times. We were left with 250 kavadi this year. A paltry number compared to the days of 600-700 in the 1990s and before. And we did not even have these many amenities then.

No community is perfect. No organisation is without flaw. See the good in the festival and see that we have no strife with SPF nor its officers. Your officers are after all our brothers, friends and countrymen. But we simply Cannot give up music at Thaipusam or anywhere else. It is our culture, our worship and our identity. To make us give that up is akin to asking us to abandon our beliefs.

I am confident there is and can be a rational and acceptable consensus on this issue. I hope SPF will lead the way, find the balance and secure a permanent resolution to this issue.

And trust us, the Tamil Hindu Singaporean community will only sing your praise instead.