Thaipoosam Cavadee falls on February 5 this year, in the Tamil month of “Thai,” which corresponds to January and February in the Gregorian calendar. ‘Poosam’ means star and ‘cavadee’ or ‘kavadi’ refers to a piece of wood. It is celebrated by Tamils in India and various other countries, including Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Singapore, and Fiji.
History of Thaipoosam Cavadee
The legend behind the festival tells of Murugan and Sage Agastya’s disciple, Idumban as the main characters. Idumban was asked by Sage Agastya to place two hills, named after Shiva and Shakti, or Parvathi, and place them in South India. Idumban ‘attached’ the hills to opposite ends of a stick, or ‘cavadee’ and set off to fulfill his task. He was marching to the designated location when he felt tired and put down his load. Murugan, who was hiding close by, saw this and made the hills too heavy for Idumban to lift up again. When Idumban discovered that he was no longer able to carry the ‘cavadee,’ he then saw Murugan and a fight broke out between the two.
Murugan, who is the son of Shiva and Shakti, insisted that the hills belonged to him and this angered Idumban who was on a divine mission. Murugan used his trusted spear, or ‘vel,’ gifted to him by his mother, to kill Idumban. He later revived Idumban who became his greatest disciple.
Because of this tale, anyone who carries a load on a ‘cavadee’ as an offering to Murugan on this day can expect to receive his blessings. Devotees usually carry a colorfully decorated arch, to symbolize hills, or other loads on the ‘cavadee’ and proceed to a temple of Murugan. Those who cannot carry heavy loads can also carry pots of milk, garlands of flowers, coconut, honey, turmeric, and other goods considered sacred and life-affirming. Many devotees perform acts of penance on this day, piercing themselves with small spears and even walking on burning coal.
Thaipoosam Cavadee timeline
The oldest brick temple in Tamil Nadu is built during the Sangam period.
At the famous Murugan temple at Batu caves, Malaysia holds the festival for the first time.
An Indian immigrant, Velamurugan, named after the god himself, constructs a Murugan temple in Mauritius’ Corps de Garde mountains.
In Karnataka, Thaipoosam has been celebrated for over 50 years, and in 2019 they celebrated their golden jubilee year.
Thaipoosam Cavadee FAQs
How do you fast for Thaipoosam?
The ten-day fasting starts with a ceremony at the temple, thereafter devotees only drink water, eat vegetarian food and sleep during the day. To contribute to their spiritual upliftment, devotees may also practice abstinence and prayer for the duration of the fast.
What do you eat during Thaipoosam?
On the day of the festival, a sweet porridge dish made with Bengal gram, jaggery, and coconut is prepared. This is also served in temples.
How do devotees bear the piercing?
Testimonials from individuals claim that they don’t feel the pain of the piercings or the loads, which are sometimes carried at the point of piercing itself. They attribute this to their devotion and commitment to the process.
Are there other festivals for Murugan?
Yes, there are other festivals such as Kartik Purnima, Karthika Deepam, and Skanda Sashthi that are celebrated in honor of the god.
Thaipoosam Cavadee Activities
Ask a Tamil friend
If you know anyone who celebrates the festival, it’s a good opportunity to ask them about what they do on the day and whether there are any family traditions they follow. Learning about the festival from someone who has participated in it is a great way to supplement what you’ve learned about it online.
Watch a procession
Thaipoosam is a colorful, dynamic festival with many sights to see and sounds to hear. The carnivalesque attire of the devotees, the peacock feathers, and flowers decorating the ‘cavadee’ make for a stunning viewing experience. The spear piercings and walking on hot coal are also sure to leave an impression.
Take part in a procession
Thaipoosam has become a drawcard for tourists all over the world. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can carry your own decorated cavadee and share the experience of the devotee. The festival is a test of strength and endurance, open to anybody who will participate in it.
5 Interesting Facts About Murugan
Murugan has many names
The god is also known as Kartikeya, Skanda, Subramanya and Shanmukha.
Murugan flies on a peacock
Murugan travels on a peacock called ‘Paravani.’
There’s a peacock cavadee
Cavadees, the flower decorated bamboo structures, carried on the shoulders of devotees to the temple, range in size and weight, and the grander ones are inspired by the enchanting display of the male peacock’s tail feathers.
Malayalis also celebrate it
Members of the Malayalam-speaking community in Kerala, west of Tamil Nadu, also celebrate Thaipoosam as ‘Thaipooyam.’
Palani is a major festival spot
Palani in Tamil Nadu is a hotspot for devotees of Murugan who congregate in the thousands to celebrate the festival.
Why We Love Thaipoosam Cavadee
It’s a colorful spectacle
Devotees adorn themselves with bright yellow and saffron clothing, flowers, feathers, and other decorations for the parade. Throngs of people carry cavadees and perform other feats.
It’s a test of endurance
Many devotees believe in piercing their skin and other body parts with spears that range in size depending on the individual’s tolerance for pain. This is performed as penance to appease Murugan and receive his blessings. Devotees believe that they will not be hurt by these acts if they are faithful.
It’s a chance to compare religions
Many religions have similar rituals of endurance, practiced on different occasions that carry a different meaning. If you know of such rituals in your community or other groups, the festival is an opportunity to reflect on their similarities instead of how they contrast each other.
Thaipoosam Cavadee dates