GEORGE TOWN, Jan 18 (Bernama) -- About 1.2 million Hindu devotees are expected to throng the Arulmigu Balathandayuthapani Temple in Jalan Kebun Bunga, here in conjunction with Thaipusam on Sunday.
Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy said devotees are expected to carry more than 1,000 'kavadi' of various sizes, design and 'paal kodum' (pots filled with milk) up the 512 steps leading to the Arulmigu Balathandayuthabani temple to receive the blessings of Lord Murugan.
"More than 150 beautifully decorated thaneer panthal (makeshift refreshment stalls) will be set up along the route, providing free vegetarian food and drinks to devotees, compared with 137 last year," he told reporters here today.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival associated with penance and atonement and a day to repent by fulfilling vows to Lord Murugan.
He said security will also be beefed up along areas leading to the Thaipusam festival.
"Apart from the presence of police, we will also continuously monitor CCTV recordings that have been installed at various locations while 1,000 RELA members would be deployed to ensure the safety of devotees, visitors and tourists," said Dr Ramasamy who is also the chairman of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board.
Dr Ramasamy said to ease traffic congestion, motorists are advised to park their vehicles at sites designated by Majlis Bandaraya Pulau Pinang (MBPP) or use the bus services.
He said in conjunction with Thaipusam, Jalan Penang, Jalan Dato' Keramat, Jalan Burmah, Jalan Anson, Jalan Macalister and Jalan Utama would be closed in stages for three days starting Friday to allow a Charriot procession of Lord Murugan from the Arulmigu Bhalathandayuthandani Temple.
Dr Ramasamy said among roads to be closed on Saturday (Jan 23) are Jalan Burmah to Jalan Gottlieb, Jalan Gottlieb to Jalan D.S Ramanathan interchange and Jalan Burmah to Jalan Kebun Bunga interchange.
"Cars parked haphazardly or those that obstruct traffic would be towed away," he said.
Meanwhile, a coconut wholesaler at Lorong Aboo Sittee here, P. Sarasvathy (he) said due to Thaipusam on Sunday, Penang was suffering a shortage in coconut while the prices of coconut had also increased.
Sarasvathy who gets his supply from Setiawan and Kuala Bernam in Perak said his company was able to acquire only 80,000 pieces compared with 150,000 last year but has decided to maintain the price at RM1.80 although prices at other places had short up to RM2.20 or RM2.50.
Coconuts are sold at between RM2 and RM2.30 in Pulau Tikus and Batu Lanchang while prices are expected to increase to RM2.50 by Sunday.