Malaysian Hindus brave coronavirus to celebrate Thaipusam festival

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On Saturday, the Malaysian Hindus celebrated the annual Thaipusam festival by piercing their bodies with hooks and skewers. Devotees came out in large numbers with only a few people wearing protective masks, despite looming fears about the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

The Hindus form roughly 6% of Malaysia’s population. Most of them belong to the ethnic Tamil Community who were brought to the country as labourers during the British colonial era.

During the festival, the devotees walk barefoot (roughly 272 steps) to reach the Batu Caves temple where Lord Murugan is worshipped. The temple located on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur is a sacred site for the Tamil Hindus.

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As offering to the deity, devotees carry milk pots that are eventually smashed. In weeks prior to the celebration, the Hindus abstain from sexual encounters and non-vegetarian diets.

Devotees carried heavy ornate metal structures (kavadis) that can weigh as much as 100 kg. These structures are attached to their bodies with metal hooks. Several people hung multiple screwers and chains from their bodies or pierced their faces with tridents.

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A devotee, however, stated that he was worried about the outbreak of coronavirus but reiterated that he was unlikely to be contaminated at a Holy place.

Only yesterday, the 16th case of the deadly Coronavirus was confirmed in Malaysia.

The latest patient is a 67-year-old Chinese tourist from Wuhan. She is the mother of another confirmed case’s friend, said Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Both are currently in isolation at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.

“She was found positive for the virus on Feb 7 and is currently being treated in the isolation ward at Kuala Lumpur Hospital and was reported to be in a stable condition,” Dr Wan Azizah said at a daily news conference on the latest development of the coronavirus.
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She said of the 16 positive cases, 12 are China nationals and four are Malaysians.

Despite the serious fears of the outbreak, the Hindus of Malaysia, unfazed, carried out their rituals and offered prayers at the festival.

The Coronavirus outbreak has killed close to 811 people in China. This prompted the Indian Government to successfully evacuate 323 Indian citizens and 7 Maldivian nationals. Despite 16 cases reported in Malaysia alone, the Malaysian Hindus braved the deadly pathogen and celebrated their festival.

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