Thaipusam golden chariot fiasco – Nattukottai Chettiars on unfounded allegations against them

Jan 19, 2017

 

Nattukottai Chettiars has replied against the unwarranted and unfounded allegations made by certain unscrupulous quarters against the community.

Penang Taipusam - Silver Chariot Procession

We have deliberately remained cautious in issuing public statements on the recent controversies surrounding the Penang Thaipusam chariot procession following the Penang Hindu Endowment Board’s (PHEB) decision to insist that its golden chariot precede the Nattukottai Chettiar community’s silver chariot.

We had hoped that the issue could be resolved with the dignity, decorum and propriety that the festival – the grandest religious-cultural festival celebrated in Penang and spoken of the world over – deserves, but this has not been the case.

Given the repeated allegations and assertions made by the Penang Deputy Chief Minister ll (DCM2), who is also the chairman of PHEB, levelled at us and our trustees, it has become necessary for us to state our position publicly, limiting our comments to only what needs to be said.

We are first and foremost, a Malaysian Trust incorporated pursuant to Malaysian Statute and Orders of the Malaysian Court, responsible amongst others, for operating and managing the Waterfall Nattukottai Chettiar Temple, the Dato Kramat Sivan Temple and the Kovil Veedu, Penang Street.

This Trust bears the name ‘Registered Trustees, Nattukottai Chettiar Temples, Penang’ and continues to fulfil all reporting and other statutory requirements under Malaysian laws with annual audited accounts submitted to the relevant authority.

That some of the trustees/members of the Trust may be lndian citizens (a position allowed under Malaysian law) does not change the fact that the Trust is a Malaysian entity.

The allegations that public donations received during the silver chariot procession have been repatriated to lndia are baseless and made without any evidence to substantiate the allegations.

The trustees – Dr A. Narayanan and C. Veerappan, did in the presence of MC Pitchay (president Gappin, a well known DAP party man) met the DCM 2 in mid-2015 and having showed him the Thaipusam accounts were left with an impression that he had been made fully aware of the position of the accounts.

The DCM 2 informed the trustees that he was misinformed earlier about the public donation collected during the silver chariot procession and he will speak to the PHEB and advise it.

Further the Trust regularly supports other Malaysian causes, some of which which are listed below:

Chettiars Donations

For the record, the Trust’s attempt in 2015 to make a contribution of RM20,000 to PHEB’s education aid, programme (every year) failed only because PHEB rejected the contribution.

The Trust had further at the request of the Penang Queen Street Maha Mariamman Temple (a temple under the management of PHEB), donated a sum of RM40,000 towards the temple’s 2016 maha kumbaabishegam (consecration ceremony) – a contribution that PHEB subsequently said (in a letter dated Feb 15, 2016) was not acceptable as “it was done under lot of publicity and press” and the temple would return the donation.

The Trust is grateful that such monies were never returned by the Queen Street temple and that the contribution remains, as the Trust has close ties with the Queen Street Maha Mariamman Temple.

For many years now the urchavamurthi (replica) of the presiding ‘Mother’ deity in the Queen Street Maha Mariamman Temple is taken on the Trust’s silver horse (vahanam) in a procession from the Queen Street Temple to the Dato Kramat Sivan Temple and back in conjunction with the Thaipusam prayers with the Trust also doing 11 days of abhishegam and prayers at the Queen Street Temple before such procession.

For Thaipusam 2017, the silver horse procession was held on Dec 30, 2016 with the usual 11 days of abhishegam and prayers held prior to the event.

Surely this and the fact that many volunteer teams during the silver chariot procession are non-Chettiars is testimony that the procession and the Trust’s activities are not caste based.

It must also be highlighted that the Batu Lanchang Hindu cemetery ground – approximately 1 acre – is a property owned by the Trust and leased to PHEB since 1998 for the use of the entire Hindu community.

Despite the slew of allegations now thrown at us and the community, both the Penang chief minister and DCM 2 have previously recognised and acknowledged our contributions.

ln the souvenir publication for the Sivan Temple maha kumbaabishegam 2012, the chief minister commended the Chettiar community for the devotion with which they have administered the temple, managed its finances and congratulated the trustees and the Chettiar community in general for the efficient management of the affairs of the temple.

For his part, the DCM 2 did in the same publication say that the Chettiars’ Sivan Temple at Dato Kramat Road has a glorious history of 150 years as prominent place of worship.

He praised the Chettiar community for the excellent administration of the temple.

Records confirm that in 1856, it was the Chettiar community that started a chariot procession for Thaipusam in Penang then using, a wooden chariot to carry the gold urchayamurthi (replica) of the residing deity Lord Thandayuthapani (Murugar) in the Kovil Veedu, Penang Street to the Waterfall Nattukottai Chettiar Temple.

Taipusam - Silver Chariot

 

Subsequently the Chettiar community, by pooling their resources, had the present silver chariot constructed in Karaikudi, lndia.

The chariot was shipped to Penang via the ‘S.S. Rona’ in 1894.

Many other newspaper reports of that time refer to this historic fact and that the wooden chariot was donated to the Chettiar temple in Medan, lndonesia, which still existed and used for procession.

Whilst the chairman of PHEB has asserted that at a recent meeting with the police, the Trust refused to cooperate with PHEB, the Trust in fact welcomed the initiative by PHEB on their golden chariot intended to carry the sacred ‘Vel’ of Lord Muruga from the Penang Queen Street Maha Mariamman Temple to the Penang Waterfall Hilltop Temple (a journey previously undertaken at 3am on Thaipusam day without a chariot).

The Trust only asked that the trust be allowed to continue uninterrupted with a tradition lasting (122 years of silver and 37 of wooden) 159 years of the chariot procession on the eve of Thaipusam from the Kovil Veedu to the Waterfall Nattukkottai Chettiar Temple.

This is a procession that consists not only of the silver chariot but also of about 80 mayil (peacock) kavadi bearers, troupes of temple musicians and singers – with the Lord Muruga welcomed with the breaking of thousands of coconuts by devotees not divided by caste or creed.

This procession already stretches a kilometre long and given the long journey before the procession reaches the Waterfall Nattukottai Chettiar temple, adding the golden chariot to this procession would be chaotic and disruptive.

 

Penang Taipusam silver chariot procession (left) and Nattukottai Chettiars' temple Thandayuthabani Koyil in Waterfall, George Town.
Penang Taipusam silver chariot procession (left) and Nattukottai Chettiars’ temple Thandayuthabani Koyil in Waterfall, George Town.

The fact that the PHEB chairman refuses to see, is that there are 2 different chariots commencing their respective journeys from 2 different temples heading to 2 different destinations and that controversy has arisen only because the PHEB has insisted on hijacking the silver chariot’s procession on the eve of Thaipusam and have the golden chariot use almost the same route on the same day at about the same time (when the journey was previously done by PHEB in the early hours of Thaipusam day.)

The Thaipusam festival does not belong to one single community and the Trust has never suggested the same.

Registered Trustees Nattukottai Chettiar Temples Penang

Related links:
Police told to check on legality of the DAP government’s Taipusam golden chariot
DAP’s golden chariot critic assaulted by thugs in Penang
Penang Taipusam – A reflection on its history
DAP’s shameful, appalling Taipusam golden chariot monetary agenda
Ignominious battle of Taipusam chariots – DAP government’s golden move to split Penang Hindus
Penang Taipusam – The Chettiars’ role