Ipoh: When his twins were born prematurely and spent several months in the neonatal intensive care unit two years ago, N. Rathankumar prayed day and night for their well-being.

After they were eventually discharged, the 32-year-old pledged to carry the kavadi during Thaipusam to give thanks to Lord Murugan and to pray for their continued good health.

Rathankumar’s sister-in-law, R. Kasturi, 38, said the twins are now healthy children.

“The twins are his first children. I still remember how worried he was when his wife gave birth to them prematurely.

“While his wife was in good condition, the twins had some health problems,” she said in an interview at the Sri Subramaniar Temple in Gunung Cheroh here yesterday.

Kasturi said they were all so happy when the twins were allowed to leave the hospital after being admitted for months.

“That’s when Rathankumar said he wanted to make a solemn vow by carrying the kavadi.

“Rathankumar carried the kavadi from the Sri Maha Mariamman Temple in Sungai Pari, Buntong, at 6am and reached Gunung Cheroh at around 10am,” she said.

As for Ipoh-born Sydney-based warehouse operator P. Devinthiran, this was his fourth time carrying the kavadi.

“My family lives in Australia and we would fly home here to celebrate Thaipusam.

“The first time I carried the kavadi was when I turned 22. I continued carrying the kavadi for personal reasons and also for the well-being of my family,” said Devinthiran, 27.

Juliette Baudot, 24, a tourist from France, said she was mesmerised by the celebration at the temple.

“This is my first time visiting Malaysia. I did some research on the religious or cultural celebrations that will be happening during my visit.

“I am really excited and happy that I got to be in Ipoh on Thaipusam day,” she said.

Baudot said she found the traditional outfits colourful.

“And I got to try some of the delicious food near the temple as well.

“This is certainly a one-of-a-kind experience for me,” said Baudot, who travelled with her 23-year-old friend Hugo Doucet.