BALIK PULAU (Penang): With Thaipusam just days away, kavadi-maker V. Prakash is working round the clock to complete all the orders for the decorated steel or wooden frames that devotees carry, along with containers of milk, to fulfill their vows to Lord Muruga on that auspicious day.
Prakash, 32, stopped taking orders two weeks before Thaipusam Day, which falls on Jan 21 this year, in order to have enough time to design and assemble all the kavadi ordered by his customers, some from as far as away as Alor Setar, Sungai Petani and Kulim in Kedah.
Prakash began making kavadi at the age of 17, his interest in the intricate art sparked by observing the hundreds of devotees carrying the kavadi since the time he was a young boy.
“When I was a kid, every year I will attend the Thaipusam festival and I love to see the beautifully decorated kavadi carried by the devotees. I was fascinated and tried making them from scratch just for fun before I joined my group of friends to try crafting it,“ he told Bernama at his house in Sungai Pinang here.
Anyone driving by his house can see the beautifully and intricately designed kavadi of all shapes and sizes on the porch.
Prakash said that this year, he had received 12 orders to design and assemble kavadi of various sizes according to the customers’ needs.
“It takes at least two days to complete one kavadi, depending on the complexity of the design and the size,“ he said, adding that nowadays, the kavadi are made with styrofoam which allowed for more designs compared to the kavadi made of sponge in the past.
Assisted by his two brothers, Mathen and Sharvin, and a friend C. Hemeswaran, Prakash spends more than 10 hours a day producing the kavadi which usually fetch between RM750 and RM3,000 depending on the design and size.
However, the seasonal kavadi-maker said that lately, he refused to accept orders which wanted him to craft kavadi with logos unrelated to religious practices.
“In the past few years, I had to reject orders to design kavadi with the swastika or football club logos because these have got nothing to do with Thaipusam,“ he said.
Prakash said the mind and body have to be cleansed before working on the kavadi, and he would follow a strict regime when it comes to making kavadi for Thaipusam.
He would go on a vegetarian diet for 48 days prior to making the kavadi as he believes that purity and cleanliness will prosper his art of making kavadi and that he will have the blessings of God.
Thaipusam is observed by Hindus all over the world in the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar to commemorate the act of Goddess Parvati presenting the vel (spear) to her son Lord Muruga as an embodiment of her shakti or power to vanquish the evil Soorapadman and restore peace and well-being.
In Malaysia, the festival is celebrated on a grand scale at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves Temple, Selangor, and the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in Penang.
The festival also draws large numbers of foreign tourists fascinated by the ritual of carrying the kavadi to fulfill vows to Lord Muruga. — Bernama