ALOR SETAR: It will be a long walk to Thaipusam for a group of Hindu devotees as they brave the scorching heat to perform the paathayathirai (holy walk) to join the festivities in Penang.
They started the 130km walk at 6pm on Wednesday from the Siva Sri Dewi Karumariamman Devasthanam Temple here and headed for the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Queen Street in Penang.
The devotees will reach their destination on Sunday.
The following morning, the devotees will join the silver chariot procession from the kovil veedu (temple house) on Penang Street and reach the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple on Waterfall Road close to midnight.
The walk, started by devotee Dr K.M.S. Ramasamy in 1980, has become an annual affair with more and more participants joining in over the years.
“After 1980, I vowed to continue with it my entire life,” he said.
“I have also performed the holy walk for three years during Thaipusam in Palani, southern India,” Dr Ramasamy said.
“This tradition helps bring young people closer to Hinduism and instils moral values in them.”
Dr Ramasamy, 64, said most of the walking would be done at night to avoid the heat, traffic and noise.
“Prior to the walk, the devotees go on a strict vegetarian diet for 48 days,” he said.
He said the devotees would rest at Hindu temples along the way.
“A group of volunteers will accompany us in cars to provide us with our meals,” he added.
Dr Ramasamy dedicated the walk to His Holiness Brammah Sri Swami Sarahana Bhavanantha for his blessing and guidance.
One of the youngest participants is P. Nisha Devi, 14, from SMK Tunku Sofiah here.
She said she has been participating in the walk and making the journey each year since she was 10.
“I was inspired by my father,” she said.
Thaipusam falls on Feb 3 and is a public holiday in Kedah.