Methinks, this festival in Bukit Mertajam rivals the main Thaipusam festival on the island in terms of popularity among the Indians. There is also a chariot procession during the day followed by a fire-walking ceremony at the 120-year-old Sri Mangalanayagi Amman Devasthanam Temple in Kulim Road but I was not able to find the time to witness them.
The small Sri Rutra Kaliamman Temple in Jalan Sepakat, hardly a 10 minutes' walk from my house, was one of the starting points for the procession to the Sri Mangalanayagi Amman Devasthanam Temple.
Inside the compound of the Sri Rutra, various groups of devotees were in various stages of getting themselves ready to wind their way to the main temple. It would be a 2½-kilometre walk, normally taking perhaps about 30 minutes, but with all the pitstops at the temporary temple sheds along the way where the devotees would be required to dance before their deities amidst loud blaring music, the journey could take even as long as two hours to complete.
Although I've witnessed the ceremonies at the Sri Rutra temple once or twice before, every Pangguni Uthiram festival brings a fresh experience to me. There are always new things to behold. And some old things too, if I may add.
But really, I don't have to go out to Penang and get myself caught up in the massive traffic jams along Western Road just to see the same, similar sort of celebrations at Thaipusam. Here then are some of the more interesting human nature pictures I recorded in Bukit Mertajam 10 days ago.
Did I mention that I also came across some old familiar sights? Well, here is one. A cart being pulled by a Chinese devotee. I've noticed him before. He joins in the festival every year, face all decorated with little hooks and chains and with big ropes attached to the big hooks on his back, and he will pull this cart all the way till journey's end.