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The Kavadi designer

06 Feb 2020 / 21:00 H.

Everybody sees Thaipusam as a colourful festival that has a strong religious significance, as devotees take part in the long procession to fulfil vows or seek God’s blessings.

When we think of Thaipusam, what comes to mind are the yellow-clad devotees carrying the “paal kudam” (milk pot), majestic “Kavadis”, colourful flowers, the smell of incense and an atmosphere filled with devotion.

What people tend to forget are the kavadi builders and the toil it entails to design and decorate it, as well as adorn it with decorative elements. It is a painstaking process requiring a lot of patience.

One such builder is Mohan Sundaram, who hails from Penang.

Four weeks before Thaipusam, Mohan is kept busy crafting and designing the kavadi using cardboards and manila cards.

He then builds the base of the kavadi, using a number of materials like polystyrene, wood, plywood, rotan, crepe paper, steel wiring, umbrellas and flower vases.

Once done, Mohan helps the devotees to familiarise themselves with the kavadi, and on how to carry it correctly, especially those installed with sharp objects.

Each kavadi represents a separate meaning and Mohan works about eight hours daily, depending on demand.

Thaipusam is a fusion of the word “Thai” the name of the month, and “Pusam” the name of a star.

It is the occasion when Goddess Parvati gave Lord Murugan the Vel – a “divine spear” to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman, who conquered the heavens and took all devas (heavenly beings for whom Indra is the King) as his prisoners.

Worshippers of Lord Murugan give immense importance to the Vel.

It is made from five types of metal - silver, gold, lead, copper and iron, and devotees believe that the Vel can absorb all negativity, bringing positive vibes, and killing all harmful forces.

Hence, the prayers to fight illness and to seek good fortunes are often part of the devotion.

Mohan’s efforts are transformed into magnificent kavadis and can be seen as devotees carry them to fulfil their vows.

He beams as he recalls how enriched he feels and fulfilled when prayers are answered and devotees share their joy with him.

M. Mohana Sundaram used knife to carved the polystyrene after he complete his sketches for the kavadi design.
M. Mohana Sundaram used knife to carved the polystyrene after he complete his sketches for the kavadi design.
Beside plain woods, he also used steel, paper and rattan to design kavadi.
Beside plain woods, he also used steel, paper and rattan to design kavadi.
M Mohana Sundaram and his assistant K. Balu making a frame for kavadi by using polysterene.
M Mohana Sundaram and his assistant K. Balu making a frame for kavadi by using polysterene.
Ready made colourful paper flower that has been crafted are ready before beieng plastered at kavadi.
Ready made colourful paper flower that has been crafted are ready before beieng plastered at kavadi.
S.Nageswari and her husband Mohana putting paper flowers on the completed kavadi.
S.Nageswari and her husband Mohana putting paper flowers on the completed kavadi.
M. Mohana Sundaram are making inspection on the almost complete kavadi that have been booked by customers.
M. Mohana Sundaram are making inspection on the almost complete kavadi that have been booked by customers.
Mohana putting on the lower part of the kavadi which also known as the peacock tail.
Mohana putting on the lower part of the kavadi which also known as the peacock tail.
S. Yaathavaraj and N.Lingeswaran(right) completing the lower part of the kavadi frame.
S. Yaathavaraj and N.Lingeswaran(right) completing the lower part of the kavadi frame.
Mohana making his last touch on the completed kavadi.
Mohana making his last touch on the completed kavadi.

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