At the annual Thaipusam festival, Tzu Chi Volunteers were on hand on two consecutive days to remind visitors, including Hindu devotees, which exceeded a million, to help advocate environmental protection.
February 7, 2012, was an important festive day to Hindu devotees. Each year, this thousand-year old religious tradition attracts more than a million Hindu devotees from all over the country to make their vows to Lord Ganesan (Elephant God). Having made a vow, no matter big or small, the devotees will return the following year to pay homage to their Lord. Also, erected in front of Batu Caves is a tall and gigantic golden statue of Lord Murugan, the most divine God in the eyes of Hindu devotees.
Pious devotees have many different types of ceremonial offerings. Some husbands walk in front, with their wives tailing behind, balancing over their shoulders a sugar cane to carry their child strapped around a piece of yellow cloth, indicating that they are here to pay their homage and to thank the god. Others put on yellow robes and walk bare-footed for a thousand strides. There are also those who pierce silver needles across their bodies, with long thin iron rods thrusting through the side of their cheeks or through their tongues. Apart from that, a colourful decorated carriage-like altar called kavadi, will be carried around. The kavadi bearers must observe strict religious rules, like abstaining from sex, fasting for 48 days and sleeping on the floor.
The different ways of paying homage to the gods have attracted countless local and overseas visitors. With the huge number of visitors, tons of refuse will be generated; and this has been the organizing authority's major headache every year. All these years, Tzu Chi has been contributing and propagating environmental protection at this festival. The PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) Chairman of Batu Caves Tamil Primary School, Rajasegaran, coordinated with Tzu Chi and had even mobilized the headmaster and teachers to participate in this good cause.
Translate your awareness into action
G.Gunaraj, Thaipusam Information Committee Chairman and Selayang Exco member, invited Tzu Chi and allotted its volunteers a 65ft. by 25ft. space just beneath an overhead bridge, to operate as an exhibition booth to educate Hindu devotees on the importance of environmental protection.
Tzu Chi volunteer, Mok Ze Wen, who has been fully engaged in environmental protection, said: "Tzu Chi is the only NGO invited (to participate in Thaipusam). This time, we hope to translate public awareness into action."
Tzu Chi volunteers wore placards with a slogan "No Refuse on the Floor". They braved the scorching sun and smilingly moved amongst the crowds to collect recyclables into large plastic bags which they had brought along. This action indirectly set an example to the Hindu devotees and petty traders hawking in the vicinity to do the same. With a common goal in mind, they all worked together to protect the environment and safeguard Mother Earth.
Tzu Chi volunteers allotted three metal baskets to categorize recyclable items into plastic bottles, plastic cups, cardboards, glass bottles and aluminum cans. All funds generated from the sale of these recyclables will be channeled towards charity, including subsidizing the repairs and renovations of Batu Caves Tamil Primary School, thus transforming tiny merits into immeasurable love.
"No refuse on the floor"
"Rubbish scattered all across the streets is a sheer waste of resources! The devotees really need to be educated," remarked a very disappointed R. Rajeswary, Head of Student Affairs Department of Batu Caves Tamil Primary School.
R. Rajeswary, who was present at the Tzu Chi Exhibition booth on the two consecutive days, had not only practised what she preached but also brought her daughter along to help in the recycling work, hoping that this would set a good example for others to follow.
Chinniahjaya, from Port Dickson, Seremban, was seen earnestly seeking information from the Tzu Chi Exhibition booth. She said: "Education on environmental protection should begin from a young age." Being a teacher, she absolutely agreed with the environmental philosophy of Tzu Chi and further hoped that this good culture would be adopted in her school.
Selflessly hoping to start the cycle of kindness
"Really? You are not paid for your job?" Anand, a hawker, exclaimed in disbelief.
Anand was extremely touched by the selfless action of Tzu Chi volunteers in collecting recyclables from the streets over the past two days. He had set aside a huge load of recyclables for Tzu Chi and also promised to contribute all his recyclables to the organization in future. Upon request, he was given Tzu Chi's contact number.
Participating in Tzu Chi's mammoth charitable activity with his family for the very first time, Chen Rong Yong said: "I feel that this is a very meaningful activity. It is much better to participate in Tzu Chi to help others, as I have nothing to do at home." The enthusiastic Chen usually participates in Tzu Chi's community services with his family whenever he is available.
Environmental protection should be tackled at its source, and this concept should be strongly enhanced. It is hoped that through this activity more and more people would be aware of the importance of environmental protection, and hence save Mother Earth.
Each year, this thousand-year old religious tradition attracts more than a million Hindu devotees from all over the country to make their vows to their Divinities.【Photograph by Ong Siew Geok】
Thaipusam Information Committee cordially invited Tzu Chi and allotted them an exhibition booth to propagate public awareness on environmental protection to local Hindu devotees.【Photograph by Wang Kum Choon】
Holding placards in their hands, smiling Tzu Chi Community Volunteers propagated the importance of environmental protection and hoped that public awareness on this issue could be enhanced.【Photograph by ChongYen Phin】
R.Rajeswary (left), Head of Students Affairs Department from Batu Caves Tamil Primary School propagating awareness on environmental protection among the Indian community.【Photograph by Tan Son Hong】
Loads of recyclables were collected during the two consecutive days of recycling activities by Tzu Chi volunteers during the Thaipusam festival.【Photograph by Ng Kee Seng】
Selayang Exco Member, G.Gunaraj (middle) said that environmental protection is a major issue and had allotted Tzu Chi an exhibition booth to propagate awareness on environmental protection among Hindu devotees.【Photograph by Choo Kok Choi】
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