In Thaipusam in Malaysia: A Hindu Festival in the Tamil Diaspora, the author argues that many scholars who had written about Thaipusam in Malaysia had constructed interpretations of the festivals and the associated forms of worship (especially the kavadi ritual) which suggested their own rationales for Thaipusam. It was contended that each of these analyses was superficially convincing, but when subject to close examination relied upon ethnographies that were far from complete.
In treating Thaipusam as sui generis, these scholars had failed to situate either the festival or the kavadi ritual within a sufficiently broad cultural or comparative framework. The main objective of this study has been to closely examine Thaipusam from the “inside”, as it were, and to trace the layers of meaning and the recondite vocabularies of this multifaceted and complex festival in terms of its continuing relevance to Malaysian Hindus. He concludes that far from being a cultural aberration, a product of time, place and the peculiar circumstances of Hindu Malaysians, Thaipusam is constructed from deep-rooted elements of South Indian culture, and can only be fully comprehended by locating it within Tamil history, philosophies and belief structures, and in particular those associated with the Tamil deity Murugan.
This is an important book by Carl Vadivella Belle which argues that Hinduism and its manifestations in the diaspora have important significance in binding not only the Hindus but also encourages “others” to revisit Hinduism, especially in a multicultural society like Malaysia which is dominated by communally infused discourses structured upon race and religion. ― Ajaya K. Sahoo, Editor, Journal of South Asian Diaspora
Dr Belle weaves his magical journey over nearly half a century, offering poignant and potent insights into the socio-economic and spiritual realities of Hindus in Malaysia. Numerous books may be available on Tamil Traditions and Hinduism in Malaysia, but none seem to have succinctly encapsulated the very essence and heart of these veritable subjects. I would unreservedly recommend this book to all those interested in matters pertaining to Indians and Hinduism in Malaysia. ― Professor Bala Shanmugam, Academic Director Federation University, Malaysia
This is a work of immense inspiration. Combining personal pilgrimage with ethnographic perseverance, it is at once a document of ritual power and cultural change and a biography of religious encounter. By becoming the religious Other, Carl Belle creates a new dimension in the understanding of Thaipusam as both ethnic and individual experience. Dauntlessly frank and insightful, it is without doubt a rare achievement. ― Dr Raymond Lee, Universiti Malaya (retired)