Kavadi in South Africa

The indentured Indians who left India, the cradle of Hindu culture and mother of Hindu tradition, arrived in South Africa during the second half of the 19th Century. They brought with them a historic culture which was distinct from the dominant Western and indigenous black cultures in modes of worship and philosophy. Thus were the seeds of Hindu religio-cultural expression, which embraced a plethora of oral traditions, rituals and festivals, transplanted into a fecund African and colonial environment.

Despite their lack of literacy and schooling, the influences of Western and other cultures, the strictures and obstructions of the colonial and apartheid eras, and a profusion of socio-political and economic difficulties, these custodians of Hindu culture have retained their identity. These pioneers could not have imagined how their simple wood and iron temples would mushroom into major religious monuments symbolizing ultimate enlightenment.

Their committed perseverance gave rise to the birth of many Murugan temples which today stand as beacons of Hindu culture catering for the religious needs of the Murugan worshippers in the Kwa Zulu-Natal, Gauteng and Cape Provinces of South Africa. Amongst the many Murugan Temples in South Africa, the Sri Siva Soobramaniar Temple in Brake Village, Tongaat, and the Shree Siva Subramaniar Temple in Melrose truly enjoy the status of "pilgrim centres" where devotees assemble to pay homage to Lord Muruga.

Today, 142 years later, the unbroken continuity of the Murugan cult in South Africa has become an important component of popular Hinduism. This is evidenced when a vast assembly of Murugan worshippers from all walks of life gather to pay obeisance to Lord Muruga and fulfill their vows during the Tai Pucam, Sithiraa Paruvam and Punkuni Uttiram Kavadi festivals. The growing popularity of the Kavadi festivals also attracts observers from other ethnic milieus in a multi-cultural South Africa, including devotees from the black community. Devotees ascribe the growth of kavadi to the benefits that the kavadi bearer experiences in the form of better health, which many call a "new life", spiritual attainment and material prosperity.

An estimated 250,000 Tamils live in South Africa about 70% in Kwazulu-Natal.

Note of Kavadinfo:

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