Ms JULIA FINN ( Granville ) ( 15:37 ): Today we recognise the annual Thiruvizha festival of the Sydney Murugan Temple at Westmead in the electorate of Granville. The incredibly beautiful Murugan temple is the largest Hindu temple in the region and the main centre of worship for the Sri Lankan Tamil community. The temple primarily honours Lord Murugan. He is the second son of Lord Siva and Parvathi and youngest brother of Lord Ganesha. He is the lord of righteousness, who protects dharma by destroying evil. Murugan means undecaying beauty and everlasting youth. Lord Murugan is the most popular God amongst Tamils. He has two consorts: Valli—symbolizing desire—and Devasena—symbolizing power of action.
He also has in his hand a spear known as a "Vel" which represents wisdom and removes ignorance. It was given to Lord Murugan by his mother, Parvathi. It is not a mere weapon but a deity in its own right. The Vel has the three attributes of wisdom: its deep stem representing a deep understanding, the breadth of the blade representing wide knowledge and its sharpness representing a sharp intellect. The vehicle of Lord Murugan is a peacock, which symbolizes ego, causing unpredictable behaviour in human beings. This conveys the idea that control of one's ego is necessary for spiritual advancement—no doubt an important lesson for many of us in this place. The annual festival runs for 11 days and this year commenced on 31 March. Various yagams, relating to fire, Abishekams, involving milk and water, and special poojas, or prayers, are conducted.
The preparation for the festival includes the entire community. Nearby residents join in preparing the temple and grounds with auspicious decorations such as mango leaves, coconut strips, banana trees and special flowers, together with kolam designs depicting yantras associated with the deity. The major religious festivals people flock to witness are the hoisting of the flag; Sapparam Ther, the chariot festival; Theertham, the water cutting festival; and Thirukalyanam, the holy wedding. The festival begins with the hoisting of the holy flag—the Kodiyetram—which I attended last Friday, along with the member for Strathfield and the member for Parramatta, when we received blessings from the priest.
The cloth for hoisting is ceremonially brought to the temple by the priest. Hoisting the flag suggests setting out to conquer, and a devotee comes to the temple to conquer ego and gain control over the baser nature with the help of the Supreme Being—in the religious sense, raising worshippers to a higher level of understanding and activity. The flag also suggests hope and desire to overcome ignorance. The temple visit invigorates the devotee, recharging them with strength and bravery to face the hardships of daily life, knowing full well that in the end those who have surrendered to the will of God find victory.
Sapparam occurs on the eighth day and refers to the tallest illuminated and colourfully decorated vehicle which is carrying the god and is pulled by the worshippers. The Ther, or chariot, festival is held the following day. It is the most popular of all events, and it will be held this Saturday. The chariot festival is an amazing spectacle and I am honoured and privileged to be invited to join in these celebrations. The glamorously dressed Lord Murugan and his consorts are carried out on a Lion face called "p". Hundreds of devotees carry it on their shoulders, along with the special seat known as Simmasanam, which floats on the heads of thousands of devotees shouting "Aro hara". It is a sight not to be missed. Up to 7,000 devotees attend the Chariot Festival. The huge and heavy chariot carrying the statue of Lord Murugan and consorts is paraded around the temple. The chariot is pulled by a rope of thousands of devotees—rich and poor, old and young, stand shoulder to shoulder in pulling it, giving Murugan the opportunity to witness the sincerity and purity of the devotees. It truly is spectacular.
On the tenth day of the festival, the ritual of water-cutting—theertham—commemorates the washing of the deity and its clothes. The priest, along with Skanda's yantra or instrument, is lowered into the water. The water used is collected in a vessel and considered sacred. After this symbolic exercise, the pilgrims plunge themselves into the sacred stream in the belief that it will wash away their sins. I am honoured to represent an incredibly diverse multicultural community in which many faiths are practised. Joining these religious communities for their most significant celebrations is really wonderful. The Murugan Temple is the largest centre of worship in the Granville electorate and has been of great importance to members of the Sri Lankan Tamil community for more than two decades. This is a community that in many cases has been displaced by the Sri Lankan civil war. These people have come to Australia to create a new life in peace and have been incredibly successful. It is a community that strongly emphasises the importance of education and strives to keep its culture and faith alive here in Sydney. The Murugan Temple is, of course, very important to that.
The Murugan Temple, in addition to being a gathering place for worship, is a special place for social support and education. Its association, the Saiva Manram, was founded in 1986, with the temple being constructed in the 1990s. The Saiva Manram operates and maintains the temple, in addition to holding religious classes there and at Homebush, and just nearby is the Tamil Resource Centre, which houses a library of more than 8,000 publications. I wish the directors and the Saiva Manram every success for this year's festival.
Ms JODI McKAY ( Strathfield ) ( 15:47 ): Vanacome, Mr Assistant Speaker. I am delighted to speak on this motion to recognise a festival that is significant to the Hindu Tamil community across Sydney. I want to very much thank the member for Granville for bringing this motion to the attention of the House. She and I, along with the member for Parramatta, are regular visitors to the temple; it is wonderful that we are always warmly welcomed. We are privileged to represent Tamil‑Australian communities in this, the oldest Parliament in Australia.
The sari I wear today as a show of respect to my community was given to me by my friends Renga and Bharathi during my recent visit to Tamil Nadu. The member for Granville and I will visit Sri Lanka later this year. Many of the residents I represent attend regular prayers at the Sydney Murugan Temple. It is the largest Hindu temple in Sydney and it attracts thousands of devotees each week from across Sydney. The temple pays homage to Lord Murugan, who is the lord of righteousness. He is the son of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvathi, and the youngest brother of Lord Ganesha.
On 31 March, I had the pleasure of attending the first day of the Sydney Murugan Temple's eighteenth annual festival. The festival is held at this time each year and is a celebration of Lord Murugan. In fact, annual festivals are celebrated in Murugan temples all over the world. For devotees it is a period for reflection, remembrance and festivity.
The festival is celebrated over a period of 11 days and begins with the hoisting of the holy flag, the Kodiyetram. The Kodiyetram signifies an individual conquering his or her ego and is symbolic of hope and the overcoming of ignorance. I was amazed by the sense of community and solidarity. I was moved, as I am each time I visit this amazing temple, by the beauty of this space. Over the festival period there will be special Poojas, Abishekams, Sapparam and Theertham, as well as fasting and feasting. The temple is adorned with flowers, banana leaves, kolam designs and traditional music. A highlight for me is the chariot festival, which will be held this weekend, and which I will be attending. The chariot is pulled by a large rope with thousands of devotees, old and young, standing side by side as a show of devotion to Lord Murugan.
It really is an extraordinary sight and I feel so privileged to be part of this community. The final day of the festival, also known as the Poogavanam, will be organised by Sydney Murugan Youth Circle. It is inspiring to see young Tamil Australian people celebrate their culture and religion in such a vibrant way. There is no doubt that organising a festival of this scale is a herculean task, and I also pay tribute to the Saiva Manram. Like the member for Granville and the member for Parramatta, I love representing a Tamil Australian community. I will always be their advocate in this place for the Tamil language and culture and, of course, the Hindu faith. Nadri.