Kavady festival: Gurukkal from south India to preside

2013-01-22 00:00

A HIGH priest from India has been recruited by the Sri Siva Soobramoniar and Mariamman temples in Pietermaritzburg in time for the Thai Poosam Kavady festival.

Because of the large numbers of devotees, the carrying of the Kavady will be held over two days. The festival will be observed at the temples on Sunday morning and Tuesday evening.

The Thai Poosum Kavady is a religious festival dedicated to Lord Murugan, a Hindu deity.

The priest, Gurukkal Shanmuga Sundaram (36), who replaced Gurukkal Visvawanthan, who has gone to Benoni in Gauteng, is from Thiruppuvanam in Madurai in South India. He studied at Sri Karpaga Vinayagar Veda Agama Padasalai in Pillayar Patty in the Sivagangai district of Tamil Nadu for five years before qualifying as a high priest.

The gurukkal is married to Sopulename and they have a three-and-half-year-old daughter, Abi Rakcha.

Sundaram has been delighted by what he has seen in Pietermaritzburg.

“I was really taken aback to see the preservation of Indian culture and religious observances in this country.

“I didn’t imagine it will be like this; in fact it is home away from home.

“What I was really disappointed about was the small amount of people who can converse in Tamil. It is very important that the Tamil language is learnt and spoken to our children so that the future generations will be able to take forward our history and languages.”

Sundaram has previously worked in Singapore and Malaysia at the Sri Thandayuthapani and the Sri Kandasamy Kola Pillah temples.

He arrived in the capital in time to perform the ceremonial rituals for the Kavady festival, at which the hoisting of a flag at the temples will herald 10 days of fasting and penance for devotees, who are going to shoulder the kavady, a wooden arch to which small brass vessels carrying milk are attached.

The structure is bedecked with marigolds and peacock feathers.

Processions of devotees will proceed from the temple grounds up Langalibelele Street, into Thomas Street and down Church Street, turning into William Street and back into the temple grounds.

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