There are numerous myth associated with Thaipusam. But the most important legend is that of Goddess Parvati presenting ‘Vel’ to muruga to eliminate demon Tharakasura.
Vel myth behind celebrating Thaipusam
Sages were fed up with the troubles created by demon Tarakasuran and his friends. They complained to Lord Shiva and he instructed Lord Muruga to help them. Lord Shiva gave him eleven weapons and Mother Parvati presented the most powerful ‘Vel.’ Lord Muruga killed the demons including Tharakasuran on Pusam star in the month of Thai. Thaipusam is celebrated to commemorate this victory of good over evil.
Kavadi and Thaipusam
Another legend about Thaipusam is associated with the Kavadi. It involves Lord Muruga testing the determination of Idumban, the student of Sage Agasthya.
Curse on Lord Muruga and Thaipusam
Another myth revolves around Lord Muruga eavesdropping into the conversation between Lord Shiva and Parvati. Lord Shiva was rendering an important mantra to Parvati and Lord Muruga listened to it by hiding. Parvati discovered that Lord Muruga was eavesdropping and cursed him.
Lord Muruga acknowledged his mistake and started a penance. Parvati was pleased and appeared before him with Lord Shiva. Thaipusam is believed to be the day in which Parvati appeared before Lord Muruga.
Cosmic Dance and Thaipusam
According to another legend Lord Shiva and Parvati were involved in a cosmic dance on the Thaipusam day. It is said that all the gods assembled to watch this cosmic dance.
River Kaveri and Thaipusam
Another myth of Thaipusam revolves around Lord Vishnu and River Kaveri. Kaveri was jealous of River Ganga getting so much of importance - especially Ganga residing on the locks of Lord Shiva. She prayed to Lord Vishnu and it is believed that Lord Vishnu appeared before her on Thaipusam day.
Thaipusam is one of the most important festivals dedicated to Lord Muruga - also known as Skanda, Subrahmaniya and Kartikeya and Shanmukha. Thaipusam is held on Pusam star in the month of Thai (January – February). There are numerous legends and myths associated with this Murugan festival.
On the Thaipusam day, large number of devotees head towards Murugan temples in procession carrying Kavadi. The drumming and chanting of vel vel shakti vel electrifies the procession and some start to dance. Some devotees pierce their tongue and cheek with ‘vel’ (small lances.) Some insert hooks in their body and some use these hooks to pull heavy objects. On the day, devotees go to any length to display their devotion to Lord Muruga.
The more subdued devotees offer fruits and yellow or orange colored flowers to Lord Muruga. They wear yellow or orange colored dress. These two colors are identified with Muruga. Some people carry pots of milk on their head.
Significance of Thaipusam
Thaipusam, like most Hindu festivals, celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is believed that Goddess Parvati gave the ‘Vel’ (lance) to Lord Muruga on the Thaipusam day to vanquish the Asura (demon) army. Thaipusam is observed on the Pusam star in the Tamil month of ‘Thai’ (January – February).
Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, is also known as Skanda and Subrahamaniyan. He defeated Tarakasuran and other demons using the ‘vel.’ This is why most images of Lord Muruga have him carrying the powerful ‘vel.’
Thaipusam is mainly celebrated in the Tamil speaking world. In India, it is celebrated in the Southern State of Tamil Nadu and in parts of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Thaipusam celebration at the Batu Caves in Malaysia has become world famous. It is also celebrated with much fervor in Singapore.
Devotees carry Kavadi to Murugan temples on this day. Nowadays, Thaipusam celebrations garner international attraction for the body piercing with vel (lance) by devotees.