On the eve of Thaipusam, the processional Murugan image, placed in a silver ter
(chariot), is taken on a procession through the city to Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Saik Road, and then back to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple at Tank Road in the evening. This opening procession, known as Punar Pusam or Chetty Pusam, usually involves a predominant Chettiar gathering. A more elaborate procession takes place the following day and involves the participation of other Hindus and non-Hindus in the procession that commences at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road and ending around three kilometres away, at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
The devotee is regarding as emulating Idumban, who mythology credits with lifting two hills. Another popular belief is that the devotee is the processional vehicle and the kavadi is a representation of Murugan’s shrine.
Bearing the kavadi is undoubtedly one of the most dominant features of Thaipusam, and receives great attention. The kavadi, traditionally consists of two semi-circular pieces of bent wood or steel attached to a horizontal structure.
To prepare for Thaipusam, a devotee may fast for about 48 days prior to the festival and will also adopt an austere lifestyle while fasting.
Devotees who have made vows will decide on the type of thanksgiving offering: a milk pot, a wooden pole with a pot of milk hung at each end, drag a chariot with hooks pierced in the body or carry an ornate structure held by spikes pierced into body.
On the day of the procession, volunteers help fix the kavadis onto the body of the carrier. This has to be done carefully, which is why people with special skills are needed. Offerings like milk pots and panchamirutham, which comprises five types of food such as banana, jackfruit, dates, honey, and sugar, are attached to the kavadi. The carrier then joins the queue to exit the temple and complete his walk of faith. The carriers are typically accompanied by supporters who encourage them onward in their procession of thanksgiving. At the end of the procession, the offerings carried are presented to Lord Murugan. This ritual is known as abishekam, and involves “pouring over the sacred vel with milk offered by the devotees” . The devotees then receive sacred ash from the temple and the kavadi is removed from the carrier’s body. The final ritual of the Thaipusam festival is idumban puja, observed in the devotees’ homes, and held up to a week after the day of the procession. This concludes the strict penance and fasting observed by the devotees in the days preceding the festival.