The newly built Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil, situated in the hills of Jalan Kebun Bunga, Penang; is the Largest Lord Murugan Temple outside of India. The RM10 million temple was built to accommodate the growing numbers of devotees, especially during Thaipusam Celebrations.
This year, the Thaipusam festival will be held mainly at the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Kovil Temple for the first time after its completion.
On the eve of Thaipusam (26 January), a silver chariot with the statue of Lord Muruga is led on a procession, accompanied by Chettiar kavadis or devotees carrying peacock feathers. The procession usually starts at 6.00am departing from Kovil Veedu (House Temple) on Penang Street and travel through Buckingham Street, Campbell Street, Penang Road, Transfer Road, Burmah Road, Anson Road, Macalister Road and Ayer Rajah Road until it reaches the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple on Waterfall Road at about midnight. On the day, coconuts are also smashed on the roads before the chariot to symbolise the shattering of one’s ego and to achieve self-realization. Aside from that, devotees also make offerings of fruits, flowers and incense to the deity.
On 27 January, Thaipusam day itself, devotees will embark on a pilgrimage from the temple on Lorong Kulit to this new hilltop temple with offerings of milk pots, or while carrying the Vel Kavadis which is considered as the highest form of offering to god. The temple can accommodate up to 800,000 visitors, a number expected for this year’s Thaipusam Festival.
On 28 January, the silver chariot with Lord Muruga makes a return trip to Kovil Veedu on Penang Street. The return trip from the Waterfall temple will start from 6.00pm till dawn the next day and will take a different route back, passing through Western Road (Jalan Utama), Dato Keramat Road, Magazine Road and Victoria Street. On this day, the same activities that were carried out on the eve of Thaipusam are carried out again along the route of the procession.
During these three-day celebration, one can find beautifully decorated make-shift stalls erected along Western Road and Gottlieb Road, selling traditional Indian goods, souvenirs, decorative items and snacks. Thunderous loud music, singing, dancing and the beating of drums can be seen and heard from afar throughout the festival.
On the 27th January 2013, Chief Minister of Penang, Mr Lim Guan Eng paied a visit to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple for a special “Vinayagar Thuthi “ prayers with the temple committee and community leaders.
Subsequently, the Chief Minister also visited the nearby Nattukotai Chettiar’s Sri Thandayuthapani Temple.