This year, the days leading up to Thaipusam celebrations at Sri Arulmigu Subramaniyar Temple or Kallumalai Temple at Jalan Raja Musa Aziz caused anxiety for many devotees. There was much debate over whether the temple should remain open during the lunar eclipse on Thaipusam Day on January 31. The community was split on the issue.
The temple committee of Kallumalai Temple subsequently confirmed that the temple would be closed from 7.30pm to 11.30pm during the eclipse.
The explanation given for the decision was as follows:
Datuk RS Mohan Shan, President, Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) said that MHS and 20 other Hindu NGOs concurred that all sacred places must be closed during the lunar eclipse. Shan added, “This is because, according to our religion, the eclipse has a negative energy which will leave a negative impact. That is why we are prohibited from conducting any form of prayer and ritual during that time. This has been practised for hundreds of years.” This is the first time in living memory that a total lunar eclipse happened during Thaipusam.
Meanwhile, Tan Sri R. Nadarajah, Chairman, Sri Maha Mariamman Temple Dhevasthanam, Kuala Lumpur, said that religious ceremonies at the Sri Subramaniam Temple in Batu Caves on Thaipusam Day would proceed during the period of the eclipse to serve the needs of thousands of devotees who have come from near and far.
I went to Kallumalai Temple at about 6.30pm on Thaipusam Day to see what was happening. The place was virtually deserted and there were few devotees. (Normally this would be the peak time and the place would be congested.) At the temple the statue of Murugan was taken round the temple ceremoniously and finally placed in the dedicated room inside the temple. At 7.30pm the stainless steel grill gate to the room was closed. One of the priests was sitting inside the room.
No more prayers were conducted. When it was said that the temple would be closed, I thought the doors of temple would be closed and no one could enter. Only the inner sanctum (inner part of the temple where prayers are conducted) was closed. Many others also thought that the temple would be out of bounds.
This year most of the kavadis were taken on the previous day and Thaipusam celebration this year was not as festive as previous years due to the eclipse.
The consequences of keeping the temple open, if any, would only be known during the coming days, months or years.