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Malaysia’s kavadi makers lose tens of thousands after processions’ eleventh-hour cancellation under Covid-19 precautions

The late announcement that kavadi processions would not be allowed during this year’s Thaipusam celebrations which is just two days away on January 18 has caught kavadi makers in Malaysia and left them lose tens of thousands of ringgit out of pocket.

Kavadi makers in Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, Perak were caught by surprise by National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique’s January 12 announcement that kavadi processions would not be allowed this year as part of Covid-19 precautions, as temple committees had previously told them that kavadi processions would be allowed.

One temple committee member said that he had incurred losses of close to RM25,000, noting that the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Batu Caves, Selangor had towards the end of December last year said kavadi processions would be allowed but without the accompanying drum performance and had in January allowed 200 kavadi to enter the temple upon online registration.

Further, he also said that the temple had kept changing the registration dates for the kavadi procession until the last minute, but that he finally managed to register 12 mayil kavadi or kavadi made of peacock feathers only to then have the “bombshell” dropped by the National Unity Ministry.

He said it takes almost RM7,000 to make a mayil kavadi and that the process involves weeks as materials had to be obtained from India.

Other kavadi makers in Ipoh said that there are about 50 kavadi makers in Ipoh.

“We worked tirelessly over the last two months and forked out almost RM40,000 to buy materials, hire workers and pay rental for our stores.

“Some of us had even used our salaries to make the kavadi. The government should have informed us about its decision at least in December,” he was quoted as saying, urging the government to reverse its decision and to allow less than 15 people from the same household to accompany a kavadi bearer.

“Kavadi in Malaysia have gone beyond religious symbols to become tourism icons. A Thaipusam without kavadi loses its joy and meaning,” he was quoted as saying.


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