Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius 2021

The cultural and religious roots of people from Tamil Nadu or Kerala in India only grows stronger when abroad and the Thaipoosam Cavadee or Thaipooyam festival in Mauritius proves it perfectly. The festival is dedicated to the Hindu deity of war, Lord Muruga and Goddess Parvathi who defeated the demon Soorapadman. The name comprising of two words Thai and Poosam has distinct meanings i.e. third month (January-February) and the highest star respectively and as for Cavadee, it suggests carrying a piece of wood. 

Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius 2020

It takes place in Thai (tenth) month of Tamil calendar i.e. in between January and February of the Gregorian calendar. 
Thaipoosam Cavadee will take place on 8th February in 2020. 

The Cavadee And Its Significance 

Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius
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The Cavadee is like a burden of devotion to Muruga and is made of arched bamboo stalk strengthened by rods and adorned with colorful flowers, sandalwood paste, peacock feathers, lime, coconut leaves, brass bells and other accessories with covered vessels hanging from each corner containing milk, sugar, rice, sandal, banana etc. From 10 days of fasting to the day of Thaipoosam Cavadee, the cavadee bearer has to observe a few rules like –

  • Take a bath in the river or the sea before getting dressed with saffron-coloured Pandaara Bhakta, conical scarlet cap and hold a silver-capped cane. 
  • Live on alms and taking only one ‘satvik’ meal per day. 
  • Observing silence, celibacy and abstaining from any intoxication. 
  • Smearing vibhuti (sacred ash) on temple and body and wear a rudraksha mala
  • No shaving
Cavadee-bearing devotees pray, think of the lord and often observe 48-days fast before the festival. On Thaipoosam Cavadee, they shave heads and often pierce their cheeks, arms, tongue and other parts of the skin with spears or skewers. Many devotees also stick hooks in the back which are pulled by another devotee walking behind.     
  • Kodi Etram –Purification Period 
10 days before Thaipoosam Cavadee, the purification period of Kodi Etram takes place with the grand hoisting of the flag (kodi) with devotional music and incantation for cleansing of the soul at the kovils. The flag features the spear or “vel” that Muruga used to kill Idumban and a cock or peacock. The flag hoisting symbolizes the commencement of the celebration and is drawn down after the conclusion of the festival.
  • Spiritual Enlightenment 
Prayer, atonement and fasting are observed by the devotees who would bear cavadees and also their families who eat vegetarian meals. As a purgation of materialistic desire, lust and passion, verses from Hindu religious scriptures are read out at kovils and homes. A saffron or fuschia string is tied around the cavadee-holders as a bracelet. People offer fruits, saffron water, sandalwood, rose water and milk to the idols while burning camphor.
  • Body Piercing 
During this period, Goddess Parvathi is revered for purification and as ultimate devotion many male devotees pierce their abdomen, chest, back, legs or arms with spears and needles in symmetrical way while many devotees including female members of families get their tongue, lips and cheeks pierced. 
  • Preparation Of Cavadees
Within these ten days, cavadees are prepared with the help from family, neighbours and friends in utmost excitement. Some are small-sized with moderate decoration while others tend to be as long as 3 meters with bright clothes, bells, flowers and small idols of Lord Muruga.     

The Day Of The Cavadee Festival 

Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius 2020
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Come the day of Cavadee festival, local people and tourists gather on the roadside or take part in the procession with the devotees in saffron and fuchsia clothes who follow the officiating Hindu priest. From the kovil, a chariot with bronze Muruga statue is pulled, thereby marking the commencement of the Cavadee. 
  • The Procession
Men are often bare-chested with ashes smeared above the waist or have piercings and wear a loincloth. With harmonious chanting of mantras and prayers, cavadee bearers pull the smaller cavadees on their head while the larger ones are pulled by those with piercing hooks connected to strings on their backs. Often you will find some people with hooks on their backs carrying limes and many children and women carry scared milk in brass pots in case of carrying cavadees. Those without any piercing, tie a piece of cloth around the mouth as their vow of devotion and meditation in silence. 

What is surprising is how none screams or winces in pain, but stay completely stoic and composed being concentrated to the thoughts of God and penance. Some devotees have chains bound to the hooks to pull wheeled altars while others have chains bound to the needles pierced on the mouth.    
  • Kavadi Attam
Thaipoosam Cavadee
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Throughout the way to the sea or a river, the devotees engage in gyrating dance ritual known as Kavadi Attam with the rhythmical Tamil trance music. On their way to the sacred bath, devotees remain barefoot and holy water is sprinkled on the hot tarred path to prevent any blisters from forming. On reaching the waterbody, incense sticks, milk, rosewater, fruits, clarified butter etc are offered to sacrificial fire signifying sanctification of cavadees and self-purification. 
  • Removal Of Vels And Taking Prasadam
On returning to the kovils, offerings are given to the deities and vels are removed from the body. Devotees then break their vow of silence and fast by taking sanctified vegetarian prasadam served on banana leaves. The vegetarian dish of Arusuvai is worth mentioning because of its mixed flavour of sweet, bitter, salty and sour that represent how different emotions when intertwined, can bring harmony to life. 

For a non-devotee or a tourist, the entire festival with rigorous rituals might seem unjustified or unnecessary but the devotees would love to contradict as they do not see any of the act as suffering but a real reverential act to appease the God.     

From the start of Kodi Etram to the day of Thaipoosam Cavadee, all the Hindu kovils or temples of Mauritius are filled with devotees offering the deities and singing hymns while the tourists flock to the experience of the strangest yet enchanting festivals. 

Origin Of Thaipoosam 

Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius 2020
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According to Skanda Purana, the festival was originated during the battle of the asuras under Soorapadman’s leadership and the Gods, in which the latter were being defeated numerous times. Distraught, they sought help from Shiva and Parvathi to give them a leader who could be victorious against the demons. With his mighty power, Shiva created Skanda who defeated the demons and that victorious day is Thaipoosam. Muruga signifies the wisdom and light of Lord Shiva and he is hence, revered to vanquish evil forces and bad traits.   

History Of Thaipoosam Cavadee  

Apart from the rigorous sword-climbing, body-piercing and fire-walking rituals, one of the most important rituals of Thaipoosam Cavadee is carrying the wooden (plastic and metal are also used now) arc or cavadee. The ritual has a Tamil mythological history regarding an outlaw and reformed bandit named Idumban (meaning arrogant) who was instructed by the guru Agattiyar to carry two mountain summits –Satigiri and Shivagiri on Kailash on the cavadee. 

While Idumban was returning with the peaks tied to the yoke, at the Pazhani Malai, he halted to rest for a while and Lord Muruga hid inside one peak making it heavier. But he kept on walking with sheer perseverance. Finally, discovering him, Idumban struck him without realizing who he was and in retaliation, Lord Muruga killed him with his spear. On hearing this, Agattiyar along with his followers sought help from Muruga to resurrect Idumban and he was made alive again. From then onwards, devotees carry their cavadee filled with flowers and milk vessels to kovils (temples) in Mauritius in order to have their wishes fulfilled.  

Thaipoosam Cavadee in Mauritius
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At the end of the festival, one can see women and children in bright clothes, men in loin sporting their piercings and getting them removed. People taking purifying baths and carrying cavadees while dancing to devotional music has become the talk of the islands on Mauritius, which otherwise remain a romantic honeymoon getaway throughout the year.

This post was published by Holidify.com

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