The hottest and most controversial news of Thaipusam 2015 is the robotic automation pipeline which pours the milk for the devotees carrying pal kudam for Lord Murugan in Batu Caves.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam deems this tech bit to facilitate Thaipusam celebration as sacrilegious and compromising Thaipusam rites.
This device would defile Thaipusam?
I am literally stumped by this statement released by Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) because it is highly irrational, rigid, bigoted and mostly regressive.
It seems that our agama is jeopardized by the simple mechanism which saves time and energy. Perhaps ardent devotees of Muruga feel that once in a year they should queue up for hours and hand over their kudam personally (even at the expense of kudam changing or missing) to the priest so that Muruga will actually take note of their prayers. The simple mechanism is right now, perhaps the numero uno nemesis standing between them and Lord Muruga, intercepting one to one communication with Lord Muruga.
I am looking at the benefits of this application. It would save time and hassle, efficiently allowing a huge number of people to pour their milk quickly and efficiently without spillage, pushing each other or shouting for kudam that has been wrongly handed over. This robotic automation might just stop devotees who come to Thaipusam to be less like hooligans and more like civilized people.
Why many oppose the robotic automation in Batu Caves for Thaipusam
Well, the first barrier devotees see is that the robotic automation pal abhishegam pipeline at Batu Caves for Thaipusam defies the ritual that has been around for thousands of years.
Secondly, the devotion of Murugan devotees on Thaipusam, carrying milk pitchers on their shoulder or head with their own vows to Lord Murugan. When the devotees reach the temple all they want to see is the milk they brought so lovingly, with full devotion being poured on Murugan statue Its like they will feel emotionally fulfilled that their vows have come a full circle. Pouring the milk into the pumping tank is akin to the devotees’ devotion rendered half baked. It is not about crowd controlling, convenience and hassle free issues, it’s all about raw emotion, the feeling of being close to Kanthan, the chance to see Lord Muruga be bathed in the pure, nourishing, white milk and to0 bask in the Lord’s divine presence. Bakthi paravasam. This device is mocking, bypassing and truncating the devotion and emotion.
Next, in this automation of pal abhishegam during Thaipusam at Batu Caves doesn’t pour milk on the Murugan statue – it pours onto the vel and the milk cascades into a tank. This is unacceptable. Milk should be poured on Lord Murugan and drained out. Saving the milk in the tank from the ‘pissing machine’ is an attempt to deviate Hindu customs that were toed since thousands of years.
Last but not least, who will chant the mantras? There should be a priest to be the medium between the mortal and immortal. Without the priest to chant mantras, it is not the correct way of celebrating Thaipusam.
So, how now?
Progressive celebration of Thaipusam
So, you claim that the installation of robotic automation pipe pal abhishegam would distort a ritual that has been in practice since thousands of years hence any change to it, no matter how sensible, suiting to times and practical should be precluded to the hilt? Rituals need to evolve to suit present day needs and reason. What’s the point of clinging to rituals just because they are thousands of years old? Just because something is thousands of years old, it means that it is relevant for infinity? There was no internet thousands of years ago so what’s the excuse for people, MHS asking for donations for Thaipusam online? You can accept tech like light bulbs, LED, generator powered chariots for Thaipusam but not a pipe to facilitate and organize Thaipusam celebration which would save lots of time and lowers the proclivity of devotee from actually sinning in a holy place?
One Thaipusam kutty kathai
Once, I followed some relatives to Batu Caves on the weekend before Thaipusam. A relative wanted to carry milk up to the temple and the place was packed like sardines in a can. Mind you, that was not even full fledged Thaipusam, it was 2 days before Thaipusam. The snaky queue was like an anaconda and it took us more than 2 hours to finally reach the top and get to the temple and we were completely drained. What irked me was that there were many people also carrying pal kudam cutting the queue by entering the temple area through an opening clearly marked as EXIT and they were ADULTS, not wayward teens.
Now what’s the point of you seeing YOUR MILK, from YOUR KUDAM being poured on Lord Muruga’s statue when you were dishonest in getting your turn to do pal abhishegam? What kind of emotion fulfillment will you derive after such impatient, boorish behaviour you portrayed under the pious guise of basking in Velan’s divine presence? If god is watching, do you think god will be impressed by your chicanery and endow you blessings? What is the point of pouring milk on the statue if the milk bearer is selfish and has no respect for others? Who are you trying to cheat? The very first pillar of devotion is patience on top of honesty.
So, to avoid from sinning at a holy place due to impatience, pain and inability to wait that long, you might as well save your energy and breath and your image before god by pouring the milk into the automated pump and be assured that the milk you brought reached Kathirvelan and that He accepted your offering. Also, young children suffering needlessly under the scorching sun and the letting of toddlers to climb all the way up to the temple. That borders child abuse in every sense of word. I really pity the kiddos, they bawl and scream bloody murder and it’s such a sorry sight. The scene of kids wailing because of grave discomfort doesn’t spoil the divinity?
Instead of completely rejecting the pump, we can consider options. Let those who find that they can’t make all the way up there pour into the pump rather than cutting lines and bamboozling god. Those that want the emotional satisfaction and have the fortitude and strength to reach the top etc, they may do so and have their milk poured the way they want. Think how useful the robotic pump would be for the elderly, sickly and disabled devotees. Stop being so ableist and think of those people who can’t ascend all the way up to the main temple in Batu Caves. MHS should consider all that instead of wholly saying robotic automation would kill rituals espoused since Idumban times on Facebook created by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004. If you insist to see the pal abhishegam a big screen that televises it live can be done. If you are against this too then you should be against Astro Vaanavil’s live telecast of Thaipusam that’s streamed by Internet world wide and garner praise on how well our Tamil TV presenters speak and pronounce Tamil which is way better than the Tamil spoken in India. Can boycott Astro ah?
Now, the dissatisfaction on the milk being poured on the vel then into a containing tank, not on the Murugan statue. Let me ask, did Murugan appear to you and told you that milk should be poured on Him and not on the vel? Thaipusam is the significance celebration of Parvati gifting Murugan the vel to vanquish the asuras who plagued the devas. I do not want to make my own definitions but the vel is the most integral attribute in Thaipusam and the vel does double up as Vetri Vel Murugan. So, what’s the big fuss?
In the picture, which focuses on the automation pipe, there’s no priest standing there, posing. So, immediately, everyone renounced their critical thinking and came to the conclusion that there will be no priest chanting mantras as pal abhishegam is performed on Thaipusam day. I am sure there will be a priest standing put in the sanctum of Batu Caves temple, chanting mantras as the pal abhishegam goes on. The point of the picture is to show the pipe, solely, that’s why there is no priest there. So, please don’t jump gun and make a fool of yourselves people. In a paradoxical way, someone created a robot priest in the picture, imply that it would replace the human priest and Thaipusam would go to the dogs as 2025 dawns. Let me ask, so what if a robot replaces human priest in the future?
Of course we need a priest with a pot belly and kudumi to recite the mantra as he pours the milk on Lord Muruga’s statue. Lord Muruga would not tolerate it if a robot does the mantra recital even if the device utters the mantra without any slip ups. Even if Malaysia has become a developed country and tech is so advanced that robots replace maids, only a living, breathing priest should recite mantra during Thaipusam because that’s the right way to do things concerned on Thaipusam.
Countless temples in India use automation like online darshan booking, facility for devotees ahead of a festival, among other thing like priority bookings for accommodations, pujas, access tickets, etc. But in essence, Hinduism and its rituals are to be thoroughly Bakthi oriented. Every action whether direct or indirect is a service to the lord, a sacrifice you make which is part of your worship. However with changing times, and exponential growth in population around the world (India during vedic times had a population less than 25 million throughout India.) Now, there are 1 billion Hindus worldwide at least. Which translates to massive congestion at temples, especially during major religious festivals. Take a look at the automated percussion and temple music, at a temple in Bhopal.
Though India is secular, it is a rather god fearing country and 80% of the population of India espouse Hinduism. Despite many setbacks like poverty, sanitary problems, disparity in economy, caste discrimination, etc, India found it important enough to have its own space program and injected much money into it and spent so much time on the Mars Orbiter Mission until ISRO nailed it last year. India became the first country in the world to reach the Mars orbit and they did it at the f***ing first attempt, doing it at a less budget that Hollywood required to produce the movie Gravity. Now, think about it for a second. How the impossible was made possible by a 3rd World Country still shrouded by so much problems? One of the pushing factor is Hinduism. Hinduism is a religion that exhorts progress and innovation. Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilization taught the world structured housing, sewage system and pipeline and you are being against innovation and ultimately what Hinduism encourages. You will brag about nuclear weapons used in the Kurukshetra war (although many doubt it, including me) but you won’t accept it if pal abhishegam on Thaipusam day is automated.
See if this video below would convince you what a scientific and progressive theology Hinduism is and how we eventually are losing sight of it by doing what we are doing.
When ISRO sent an orbiter to Mars and nailed it at the first attempt, many, many Malaysian Indians were like, “Goyyaleh, inimel nambele yaaarachum ‘Balik India nu solluvan??!!” Now, when a futuristic, tech development is in the horizon, throw a hiss fit that it defiles agama dan bangsa. The hypocrisy and irony are so luminescent, they burn my eyes. So bloody what if a robot replaces the priest in upcoming times? What if a Malaysian Indian puts together such a robot? Cheered until throat gets hoarse at Enthiran, poured milk on the Robot cutouts but that type of deviants don’t mar Hinduism. An automated pipe will put paid to all that Hinduism accounts for la. Sure. I am so convinced.
Now wait. Is this Hinduism or Islam where every Tom, Dick and Harry can issue injunctions? Nowadays I’m seeing many self appointed god speaker persons who synthesize god’s words. Since when did Hinduism forward such rigid rules, do’s n don’ts? Thale eh summa irukku (Murugan). Inthe vaalungge tha over ah aduthu (people).
Milk wasting on Thaipusam
Bhagavata Purana III 29.24 says, ‘If a man disregards and persecutes fellow human beings, but worships Me in images with numerous rituals and rich offerings, I am not at all pleased with him for proffering such worship”. The worship of people who do nothing for fellow man but worship Him in images with elaborate rituals is condemned in the Bhagavata Purana.
Why am I quoting Bhagavata Purana? Because too much sentiment and tradition and emotion are attached to rituals that they make reason, present day relevance, situation, sensibility and practicality translated as disrespect, blasphemy and desecration.
I for one, would greatly support if the milk used for abhishegam on Thaipusam day is collected and then given away to those who need the nourishment of milk by an efficient delivery system, rather than just squandering perfectly drinkable milk away. Tech and precision organization of the Mumbai dabbawala can be employed to make those who need milk most get it. It would be even better if this is done daily instead of only on Thaipusam day. Think of all the hungry children who will be nourished.
In actuality, by pouring the milk onto the vel which flows into a tank is a great way to conserve and then collect the milk. I feel, instead of spilling so much milk onto a statue, that gets sprinkled all over the place, better still collect most of the milk in the tank, save the milk and then quickly deliver the milk to the poor instead of just letting it go down the drain. For ritual purpose, pour one litre of milk on Murugan. Lord Muruga never asked for milk to be poured on His anthropomorphic form in order for Him to extend his blessings on Thaipusam day. You say you want to see the milk poured on the Murugan statue for the fulfillment of your vow. Try being in the shoes of a hungry child who watched all the milk being poured on a statue. How would the child feel, seeing all the milk going down the drain under the name of rigid ritual when just a pint of the milk could have appeased the child’s hunger? Let’s say, when you are ascending the stairs leading to the temple on Thaipusam day, carrying a pitcher full of milk. A hungry child begs if she can have some of the milk. What will you do? I’d like to quote ‘makkal sevai, Mahesan sevai’.
Rituals need to evolve to suit present day needs and reason. What’s the point of clinging to rituals just because they are thousands of years old when its obvious vision is conspicuously regressive?
Kanthanukku Vel, Vel, Muruganukku Vel, Vel! Vetri Vel Muruganukku, Arooogaraa..!!