Thaipusam is celebrated to commemorate the feats of the Hindu deity, Lord Subramaniam, the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Sakti. Found in the Hindu mythological book, “Skanda Purana”, the Hindu festival was the day when Lord Subramaniam appeared before his devotees while riding a peacock which is known to be his “vahana” or vehicle. At the same time, it is to acknowledge his triumph over evil.
According to the legend, devas or the celestial beings were plagued by asura or demons that they had to plead to Lord Siva for help. Touched by their pleases, Lord Siva sent his son Subramaniam to defeat the asuras.
Upon completing the task, Subramaniam was believed to have appeared before his devotees and was seen wearing brilliant jewels, armed with a golden spear and seated on a chariot. Hence, on Thaipusam day, Lord Subramaniam’s image is adorned and decorated and is placed on a silver chariot before his devotees. The chariot is then taken on a procession to a designated Hindu temple.
In addition to being acknowledged as symbols of bravery, power, virtue and beauty, Hindus believe that Lord Subramaniam is the universal giver of blessing. Thus, those who have made vows and pledges to Lord Subramaniam will prove their gratitude by undergoing self-mortification on Thaipusam.
Meanwhile, penitents in fulfillment of vows will carry the kavadi on the day of the festival. Carrying of the kavadi is the most popular form of sacrifice during Thaipusam as it means sacrifice at every step. Hence, it is the kavadi that identifies the festival of Thaipusam. It is believed that Iduban, a devotee of Lord Subramaniam, carried an offering that pleased him that he blessed his people with countless blessings. The burden that was carried by Iduban has passed down in the form the kavadi.