Thaipusam: The Ban on Musical Accompaniment, and an appeal for change.


A letter that I intend to write to MCCY and HEB. Don’t know if I should publish it as a petition.

But before that, a few thoughts on the response to the ban on musical accompaniment for Thaipusam.

I completely disagree with the argument that we should be allowed to use musical instruments because other religious groups are allowed to do so for their festivals. This in my opinion, is a completely inadequate argument. It trivializes the need for music and reduces it to nothing more than a childish competition.

“He is allowed to do it, why not me?”

If one fine day, the government decides to ban Lion Dance troops, would it then become OK for there to be no musical instruments during Thaipusam?

I think it is important for us Hindus to be consistent and clear about what we are fighting for, and why we are fighting for it.

Also, the point of musical instruments is not to create a fun atmosphere. In saying that, we make it seem like the instruments are optional and not necessary.

And finally, Thaipusam is not going to die down because there are no instruments. It will deter those who simply go there for the entertainment value, but for a true devotee, regardless of the circumstances, Thaipusam will continue to be significant and important.

To whom it may concern

Petition Background (Preamble)

The ban on musical accompaniment during religious processions has been applied to Thaipusam since 1973. This prohibition was formalized by the Singapore Police and the official reason cited for this , as explained by the then-Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Chua Sian Chin is as follows:

“The use of musical instruments slows down the pace of the procession, as observed by the police. With the accompaniment of music, the devotees, as well as their followers dance to the rhythm of the music, occupying larger spaces in the roads. This therefore disrupts traffic flow and creates major traffic congestion in the city.”

In more recent times, musical accompaniment has also been associated with unruly behavior, thus making it necessary to reinforce the ban.

This petition seeks to appeal for a review of this ban, with specific regard to Thaipusam, for the following reason.

Music, both vocal and instrumental,plays an important role in the devotion-centered aspect of Hinduism and can be traced back to the Vedic times. Bhajans (which translates to devotion of the Lord), refers to musical worship and often consists of verses glorifying the deities. It is said that musical worship, by virtue of the Ragas (musical scales) used, has the power to generate feelings of devotion both within the listener and the performer when properly invoked. As the devotee undertakes the arduous journey of 4.5 km while shouldering the weight of the Kavadi/Milk Pot, musical worship serves as an avenue for him to engage with the Divine and is a form of worship in itself. The accompaniment of instruments, particularly the drum is crucial, for it serves as the unifying force that keeps everyone in sync.

While musical instruments are allowed within the temple premises, the essence of Thaipusam is such that undertaking the journey between the temples is just as, or perhaps even more significant than the destination itself.

While we understand the need to strike a balance between conformity to the way in which the procession should be carried and the enforcement of rules and regulations to prevent disorder, we implore the authorities to consider the fact that music plays a crucial role in the festival and in Hindu worship in general.

We also do acknowledge that in the past years, allowing the use of musical instruments has resulted in people misusing their rights, resulting in social disorder. Therefore, we also propose that the following measures be taken into account as possible complimentary measures to support the use of musical instruments.

1) Continue to get all musical groups to register with HEB and as part of the registration process, make it compulsory for them to attend a briefing on the dos and donts to be practiced during the festival. There should also be very specific guidelines stipulating that only traditional musical instruments be played.

2) With the sales of tickets that devotees have to purchase for their participation in the festival, HEB should provide information sheets, educating and creating awareness in the community about the true meaning of the festival, in addition to the currently disseminated information on the proper decorum that is to be maintained throughout the festival.

3) Law enforcement professionals should continue to make their presence felt during the festival and ensure that rules and regulations are adhered to.

The introduction of rules and regulations, coupled with education and awareness would ensure that the majority of Hindus would not suffer due to the reckless behaviour of a few.

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6 thoughts on “Thaipusam: The Ban on Musical Accompaniment, and an appeal for change.

  1. I was also thinking about the same measures.that you have mentioned in 1 and 2 . Probably a curfew hour could be implemented such as no musical instruments Maybe after 1030pm.

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  2. Mr kumares, curfew for? Thaipusam Only come 1time a year.. not every month So I strongly diagree with curfew.. Think about other devotees who comes after 10:30pm? If chingay can be play till midnight… Why not we given the same priorities?

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  3. What I would suggest is to not only register traditional musical instruments but to also disqualify non-traditional instruments inside or outside temple premises. There were points where bongos and bass drums had not been stopped but traditional instruments were seized.. I don’t see a reason why that should happen.

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  4. yes I agree with point 1 , only traditional indian drums allowed.. All the cowbells and bongo and etc strictly not allowed !!!! It’s those kind of music that cause a lot of rowdiness …

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