Act of love: This Malaysian continues to carry the kavadi in honour of his late father

TWELVE years ago, Francis Wolf asked his father if he would carry the chair (used when the kavadi-bearer takes a rest) while he bore the kavadi during Thaipusam.

Carrying the kavadi up 272 steps from the foot of the cave beneath the shadows of the imposing 42.7metre-tall statue of Lord Murugan is believed to bring peace and good luck.

Stories vary with regard to the origins of this ultimate act of worship. One popular tale speaks of the time when Lord Murugan tested Idumban, a devotee of Sage Agastya on his loyalty, devotion and duty towards his guru.

When Agastya instructed his devotee to bring him the two hills occupied by Murugan, Idumban duly complied, but was soon put to the test by the deity himself.

Pleased with Idumban’s determination to comply with his master’s wishes despite the odds, Murugan declared that people who carry the kavadi, which symbolises the hills of burden carried by Idumban, would be blessed.

Carrying the kavadi is a solemn vow that devotees undertake to implore Murugan for assistance, usually on behalf of a loved one who’s in need of a miracle, or as a means of balancing a spiritual debt.

It symbolises humility, the shedding of ego, and a deep faith in God. For the Tamil community, taking the kavadi to Murugan temples during Thaipusam is considered highly auspicious.


What makes what Wolf does so unique is that he’s not even Tamil.

His father, See Kim Leong, said “yes” and offered to be by his side when he carried it. Sadly, his father passed away before they could do it. The following year, Wolf went ahead and carried the kavadi.

“We were supposed to do this together. I didn’t get to experience it with my dad, but I do it now in honour and remembrance of him,” says Wolf.

Seen in the photograph are his cousin, See Siew King, and his friends, Rupa Subramaniam and Tania Maria Tangit (not pictured), who have been accompanying him as he carried the kavadi for the past few years.

On the walk from the temple to Batu Caves and up the colourful steps, they’re attentive, easing Wolf’s physical burden by massaging his legs and cooling his feet with water, among other things.

This is a Malaysian story: people of different races and cultures coming together to help a friend fulfil his wish to honour his father.

Kenny Loh is a professional photographer and storyteller who has been documenting Malaysia through his photographs and stories since 2009. Follow him at

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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