13 January, 2011

Singapore: Massive outcry over Thaipusam’s noise curbs

Guidelines made public last Friday that restrict devotees to singing – no music or drums to be played – have drawn varied reactions.

The Hindu Endowments Board (HEB), which announced the guidelines, said it has received a “handful” of queries from devotees seeking clarification.

A Facebook page, Bring The Thaipusam Beat Back, was set up by a devotee on Monday – and more than 40 people had pledged support.

Prominent socio-political blog Temasek Review saw hundreds of comments within days condeming the new guidelines.

Prominent lawyer Mr Ravi has also filed a Summons against the AGC and HEB claiming that the rights of minorities have been violated with this new guidelines. He will be holding a press conference at 11am in his office tomorrow.

Thaipusam is an annual occasion where Hindus give thanks to Lord Murugan for his blessings. Devotees carry milk pots or kavadis – metal or wooden structures fixed to the body – to express devotion to the deity.

Census figures indicate that Hindus make up about 5 per cent of the overall resident population – or about 250,000 people.

The 4km event, which can take as long as five hours, starts from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road and ends at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road.

The rules, which the HEB said mirrored police guidelines with regard to public order, appeared to bear stricter control over common practices during the procession. One was the barring of music and playing of instruments. Now, only religious hymns may be sung. Other rules include no wearing of make-up on the faces of devotees and allowing only small objects to be hung from their bodies.

The HEB said these guidelines were set by the police and were not new, even if it was the first time they were compiled and made public.

HEB chairman S. Rajendran said the move was calculated to reduce noise and unruly behaviour, both of which have been on the rise. Twenty years ago, the walk was attended by about 10,000 people – including both participants and spectators. Last year, that figure was 50,000, he said.

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