I am by no means a specialist of Hindu religion, so please forgive any mistakes, I am happy to be corrected. This is a a small guide for fellow shutterbugs on what to expect on next Thaipusan day.
This year Thaipusam falls on 8th of February, it is a Saturday so there is no excuse for not going out and shoot ; and Thaipusam offers many different photo opportunities.
The eve of Thaipusam, on the Friday, the Chariot of the temple will take Lord Murugan for a day’s visit to his brother Lord Vinayagar at Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik Road. Along the route, he stops at several places, including Sri Mariamman temple on South Bridge Road (Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple), to greet the goddess within, a manifestation of his mother. He then continues on to see his brother.
The Chariot leaves around 6pm and comes back around 9pm ; then it is parked in front of Tank road temple and visited by many devotees. Later in the night starts the Thaipusam procession : devotees start from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (Serangoon Road aka SSPT) at 11.30pm.
Doors at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (Tank Road aka STT) will open at 12.01am on 08/02/2020. You can enter the back of the temple and watch the priests opening the inner shrine, and then let the devotees came in and receive their blessings. The activity is quite low around that time but it gets busier around 2am.
Devotees will keep on leaving the Serangoon Garden temple until midnight on Saturday. My usual routine is to reach Serangoon Road temple before 8am. The sun is still very low and and the light inside the temple is dim. The temple and the nearby parking area are used to set-up the kavadis of the devotees and prepare themselves for the procession. Groups are constantly setting up, so no pressure to shoot. All of this happens under canopies to the light can be tricky.
You can follow one group all the way to Tank Road, or walk a bit faster and move from group to group. Beware, when you reach Clemenceau Avenue, the only way to get inside the temple is to queue with the devotees until you reach the temple. I never did it 10 years, but if you do you will be able to enter the temple by the front door.
If you are not that brave enough, you can walk along the queue of the devotees and arrive at the back of the temple. Where you can see devotees exiting the temple then arriving at the rest are and disassembling the Kavadis. Moments of rest and relief.
Finally if you go on the path of the procession at night you will see lighted-up kavadis!
I have no idea of what happens at both temples after the last devotee leaves or arrives
So plan for a great day : you can shoot from Friday 6pm to Midnight on Saturday.
A few advises:
- The Chariot procession can be fun, especially if you spot it in town or upon its return to Tank Road. But chasing it may be complicated.
- The evening when the temple at Tank road open is interesting, I have been two or three time, I may skip it this year
- During the day I prefer going the morning like getting ready to shoot at 8am for a couple of hours
- You can spent another hour at the disassembly area
Practical: the places will be busy, many visitors attend all stages of the event, and many buddy photographers, hot (but I never felt the need to bring water), and yo have to leave your shoes outside of the temples (I don’t mind, but you can also bring flip flops and put them in your bag)
Technical stuff: I shot with DSLR (from 17 to 200 mm), SLR, Leica film and digital and the Hasselblad. This is a busy event, so you don’t have much time to fiddle around. Last year I shot only with 35 and 50mm, with a couple of shots on 28. With 28 and 35 you get a lot of “noise” in the frame, maybe something around 80mm would be nice if you want to shoot portrait or the actual moment piercings are performed (I am a bit less interested in this now). People are super friendly but I avoid to be too a nuisance and to thrust your camera in people face, show some respect.
For film: I used 400 ISO for B&W in the temple in the morning , for the night events I used 3200 Kodak TMZ or Ilford Delta and Cinestill 800.
For more information you can visit the Hindu Endowments Board website https://heb.org.sg/
You can see some of my past posts on Thaipusam here.