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Two Chariots?

๐–๐ก๐ฒ ๐ƒ๐จ๐ž๐ฌ ๐๐ž๐ง๐š๐ง๐  ๐“๐ก๐š๐ข๐ฉ๐ฎ๐ฌ๐š๐ฆ ๐๐ซ๐จ๐œ๐ž๐ฌ๐ฌ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐…๐ž๐š๐ญ๐ฎ๐ซ๐ž๐ฌ ๐“๐ฐ๐จ ๐‚๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ข๐จ๐ญ๐ฌ?


๐‘‡โ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘–๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘‘๐‘ข๐‘๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘› ๐‘œ๐‘“ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐บ๐‘œ๐‘™๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘› ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘–๐‘œ๐‘ก ๐‘Ž๐‘๐‘๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก๐‘™๐‘ฆ โ„Ž๐‘Ž๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘  ๐‘Ÿ๐‘œ๐‘œ๐‘ก๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘› ๐‘Ž ๐‘“๐‘’๐‘ข๐‘‘ ๐‘๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ค๐‘’๐‘’๐‘› ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐‘ƒ๐‘’๐‘›๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘”โ€™๐‘  ๐ป๐‘–๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘ข ๐ธ๐‘›๐‘‘๐‘œ๐‘ค๐‘š๐‘’๐‘›๐‘ก ๐ต๐‘œ๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘‘ (๐‘ƒ๐ป๐ธ๐ต) ๐‘Ž๐‘›๐‘‘ ๐‘กโ„Ž๐‘’ ๐ถโ„Ž๐‘’๐‘ก๐‘ก๐‘–๐‘Ž๐‘Ÿ๐‘ .




While Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves and Ipoh only feature one chariot, Penang Thaipusam has seen two chariots during the procession since 2017 when Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB) decided to roll out the golden chariot, breaking a 164-year tradition of the silver chariot as the only chariot during the festival.


For the record, the Chettiars has been successfully organising the silver chariot procession during Thaipusam in the island for more than a century while the golden chariot first made its appearance in 2017.


In other words, the Silver chariot belongs to the Chettiars while the Golden chariot belongs to the Penang Hindu Endowment Board (PHEB), which represents all Hindus.



๐–๐ก๐ข๐œ๐ก ๐ ๐จ๐ญ ๐ฎ๐ฌ ๐ญ๐จ ๐ญ๐ก๐ข๐ง๐ค๐ข๐ง๐ , ๐ฐ๐ก๐ฒ ๐ข๐ง๐ญ๐ซ๐จ๐๐ฎ๐œ๐ž๐ ๐š๐ง๐จ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ซ ๐œ๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ข๐จ๐ญ?

H๐ž๐ซ๐žโ€™๐ฌ ๐ฐ๐ก๐š๐ญ ๐ฐ๐ž ๐ค๐ง๐จ๐ฐ.


Prior to 2017, PHEB was reported to be upset that the Chettiar clan is organising the chariot procession for Thaipusam, wants to start its own procession, with its own chariot and on its own terms and at its own temples.


โ€œYou see, Thaipusam rakes in the money for the Chettiars. From as early as 5.30am the day before Thaipusam, hundreds of thousands line the street with trays of offerings.


โ€œThe trays contain fruits, flower garlands, silk, jewellery and, most importantly, cold, hard cash. Imagine, hundreds of thousands offering cash โ€“ anything from RM50 to even in the thousands.


โ€œThe Chettiars take the money but apparently, they do not show the accounts. I am sure they do the accounts. They are very good at accounting โ€“ they even have a separate account for Lord Muruga. But they do not share the takings with the board.


โ€œThe board, on the other hand, has to organise a full-dayโ€™s event the next day, from the temple in Queen Street in Little India to the Waterfall hilltop temple. They are responsible for security, for cleanliness and adherence to religious rites throughout the entire distance.

โ€œAnything can go wrong. There have been fights, injuries, even deaths.


โ€œThe board has to organise events at the hilltop temple too. Volunteers are needed to carry things up, to bathe the deity in the milk offerings and to ensure orderliness at the temple. They do that for a full day and a half.


"What does the board get in return? The RM5-RM15 payments by the kavadi bearers," wrote Dorairaj Nadason, The Starโ€™s Executive Editor in 2016. [1]


And so, in 2017, the golden chariot was rolled out. The PHEB collects donations during Thaipusam, but money is returned to the public in the form of financial grants to needy students and welfare assistance to those in need.[3]


โ€œPHEB is not against the Chettiar community. The current issue regarding the Silver Chariot is an issue between the Trustees of the Nattukottai Chettiar Temple and PHEB.

โ€œPHEB wants transparency in the collections of the Silver Chariot when it plies the government road. It is widely believed that the Trustees of the temple (who are all Indian citizens) send funds to India and are enjoying the collections money.


"This money should be used for the betterment of the poor Indians in Penang.


โ€œThe PHEB has no issues with the local Malaysian Chettiars, who are good Malaysians and have no access to the money collected by the Silver Chariot and have no say in the management of the temple.โ€ wrote Deputy Chief Minister of Penang State Dr P. Ramasamy (who is also PHEB chairman) in a 2017 Facebook post. [4]


๐’๐จ, ๐ฐ๐ก๐จ ๐›๐ž๐ง๐ž๐Ÿ๐ข๐ญ๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐Ÿ๐ซ๐จ๐ฆ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐๐จ๐ง๐š๐ญ๐ข๐จ๐ง ๐œ๐จ๐ฅ๐ฅ๐ž๐œ๐ญ๐ž๐ ๐›๐ฒ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐’๐ข๐ฅ๐ฏ๐ž๐ซ ๐œ๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ข๐จ๐ญ?

In 2017, FMT reported that The Penang Chettiars revealed their donations given to charitable bodies and temples since 2009 until last year. (See pics)

This follows allegations by the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB) that the Chettiars were sending donations to India.


โ€œThe allegations that public donations were repatriated are hence baseless and made without any evidence.


โ€œFor centuries, the trust had been handing out donations, but we have not been documenting them in the media,โ€ a spokesperson for the Registered Trustees, Nattukottai Chettiar Temples, Penang said. [6]


The Chettiar population, mostly associated with money-lending, has dwindled over the decades when some of them returned to their ancestral homeland of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, India, while some moved to other parts of Malaysia or overseas. [5]


Nattukotai Chettiar Temple managing trustee Dr A. Narayanan refers to his community members in Penang as a โ€œsuper minorityโ€ group โ€“ there are only about 50 families left.

Although small, the community has been successfully organising the silver chariot procession during Thaipusam in the island for more than 160 years. [5]





๐’๐จ, ๐ก๐š๐ฏ๐ž ๐ญ๐ก๐ž ๐ซ๐ข๐ฏ๐š๐ฅ ๐œ๐ก๐š๐ซ๐ข๐จ๐ญ๐ฌ ๐ฆ๐ž๐ง๐ ๐ญ๐ก๐ž๐ข๐ซ ๐ซ๐ข๐Ÿ๐ญ?

As of last year (2020), the rival chariots have made peace, with PHEB and the Nattukottai Chettiars clan set aside their animosity, and devotees were seen welcoming two chariots at the religious event. [7]

However, things took a dramatic turn in the wee hours of 27 January 2021 when the Silver chariot took to the street, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite a firm โ€œnoโ€ to the chariot procession this year by the Penang government, citing health concerns, the chariotโ€™s owners, the Chettiars, sought intervention from the federal government to allow it to be held.

โ€œIt was due to the efforts of (MIC deputy president) M Saravanan that we got this procession approved. God bless him,โ€ A Narayanan, senior trustee of Nattukottai Chettiars, told FMT.

Earlier, the Penang Hindu Endowment Board had accused the Chettiars of wavering in their stance, as they had agreed that the chariot procession would be suspended this year, but made an about-turn after a similar procession was allowed from Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves. [8]

This is not the first time the Silver chariot was given special permission to complete its Thaipusam procession during a national lockdown - one of the occasions was the 1967 Hartal.



[1] https://www.thestar.com.my/.../penangs-chariot-of-fire.../ [2] https://www.facebook.com/proframasamy/posts/1274439979260925 [3] https://www.facebook.com/proframasamy/posts/2783384581699783 [4] https://www.facebook.com/proframasamy/posts/1259517617419828 [5] https://www.thestar.com.my/.../a-battle-for-divine-rights... [6] https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/.../penang-chettiars.../ [7] https://www.malaysiakini.com/news/509988 [8] https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/.../thaipusam-chariot.../

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