Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Malaysian Hindus mark festival under strict Covid curbs

Malaysian Hindus mark festival under strict Covid curbs

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Hindu devotees feed pigeons outside a temple in Batu Caves ahead of the Thaipusam festival, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur on Sunday. AFP

Malaysian Hindus mark festival under strict Covid curbs

Malaysian Hindus carried offerings up hundreds of steps to a major temple Monday to mark the annual Thaipusam festival in celebrations that were scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event sees Hindus, a sizeable minority in multi-ethnic Malaysia, show their devotion to the deity Lord Murugan.

Hundreds headed to the Batu Caves temple complex outside Kuala Lumpur and walked barefoot up 272, multi-coloured steps to reach the site, carrying offerings such as milk pots.

But celebrations were muted compared with the years before the pandemic, when huge crowds would throng the site, with officials limiting numbers to cut the risk of Covid-19.

Once a common sight at Thaipusam, “Kavadis” – ornate metal structures that devotees affix to their bodies with sharp metal spikes – were also banned this year.

Hindu devotee Krishnan Karuppan told AFP that he arrived at the temple before dawn.

“Many people are afraid [to come],” he said. “My own children didn’t come – they’re all at home.”

Another worshipper at the temple, Ariyenthiran T Somasundram, added that “to be on the safe side, it is better” to limit numbers.

But, he said: “I’m really sad . . . because the crowd of millions of people are not here.”

Local media reported that authorities were limiting attendance at the temple to several thousand over Thaipusam, which officially falls on Tuesday.

Malaysia faced a serious coronavirus outbreak last year, and has reported more than 2.8 million cases and 31,000 deaths, although infection rates have dropped in recent months.

Most of Malaysia’s roughly 32 million people are ethnic Malay Muslims but the country also has around two million ethnic Indians, many of whom are Hindu.

Most are descendants of labourers brought from ethnic Tamil areas of southern India by Malaysia’s former British colonial rulers.

Lord Murugan is particularly revered in southern India and among ethnic Tamil communities in Southeast Asia.


  • Hun Sen: Stop Russia sanctions

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said sanctions against Russia as a result of its military offensive in Ukraine should be stopped as they have produced no tangible results, and predicted that a global food crisis would ensue in 2023 as a consequence. Speaking to an audience at

  • Chinese tourists 2.0 – Coming anytime soon?

    Regional tourism is grappling with the absence of the prolific travellers and big spenders – the Chinese tourists. Cambodia, which has welcomed over two million Chinese tourists before Covid-19, is reeling from the economic loss despite being the first to fully open last November ‘To put

  • PM reflects on shoe throwing: Free speech or act of violence?

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on May 17 questioned whether a man who threw a shoe at him while he was in the US was exercising freedom of expression or if it was an act of hostility. Hun Sen was referring to an incident last week when

  • Siem Reap’s Angkor Botanical Garden opens

    The Angkor Botanical Garden was officially opened on May 19 with free entry for both local and international visitors for the first six weeks. The garden was established on a nearly 15ha plot of land in Siem Reap. “After the first six weeks, Angkor Botanical Garden

  • Pub Street on the cards for Battambang

    The Battambang Provincial Authority has announced that it is considering establishing a Pub Street in the area around the heritage buildings in Battambang town in a bid to attract more tourists. Battambang provincial governor Sok Lou told The Post that the establishment of a Pub

  • Hun Sen: Don’t react to hostility

    Prime Minister Hun Sen urged tolerance and thanked members of the Cambodian diaspora for not reacting to the hostility on display towards him by others while he was in the US to attend the May 12-13 ASEAN-US Special Summit in Washington, DC. In an audio