Caution: This post is not for the faint-hearted
It’s one of the most fascinating festivals the world has ever seen.
A bizarre yet colourful Hindu festival, Thaipusam
is an annual event that takes place within the Indian community of Malaysia, India, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Mauritius. The word ‘thai’ is the Hindu month which falls in between of mid January and mid February, while ‘pusam' refers to a star which is at its brightest during the period of this festival.
On 7 February 2012, millions of devotees will be drawn together to commemorate the victory of the Hindu deity Lord Murugan (also known as Lord Subramaniam) over a powerful demon, Surapadman. They will also go to temples to pray for the Lord’s good blessing for the new year.
To many people, Thaipusam is a stomach-churning festival where devotees are subjected to painful rituals like piercing themselves with hooks. Redster Pushparaaja Munusamy
, a photograph extraordinaire gives us a deeper insight on this out-of-this-world experience by sharing some of the fascinating captures he caught of this affair in Malaysia.
In Malaysia, the most famous pilgrimage and focal point on the Thaipusam day is at Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur as devotees head out in a 15km procession from the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. The procession starts at the wee hours of the morning and can last up to eight hours.
Devotees will start by cleansing their bodies through fasting and abstinence, and usually observe a vegetarian diet for a certain period of time. On the day of Thaipusam, pilgrims will wash themselves in nearby rivers as well as have their heads shaved.
The newly shaven head is then smeared with sandalwood, a pale yellow powder which is holy to the Hindus.
In a trance, the devotees will then make their way to the temple where they will endure great flights of stairs to the cave.
Devotees undergo the walk, carrying containers of milk, water, fruits and floral tributes as offerings to Lord Murugan either by hand or on their heads.
However some devotees will carry the offerings on their shoulders using decorated carriers called kavadi
. The carrying of the kavadi is known to be one of the most fascinating sights of the festival. The kavadi
can be as simple as a wooden stock with two baskets at each ends, slung across the shoulder. But some kavadi
are decorated with flowers and peacock feathers as well as adorned with many brass bells.
There are also other types of kavadi
that involve hooks, skewers and small lances called vel being stuck into the devotee’s body, where pots and fruits are hung.
Some hooks are attached to the backs of the devotees and they are either pulled by another walking behind or hung on chariots and decorated bullock carts.
As the chariot passes the streets, other devotees smash coconuts as offerings and give thanks to the deity as well as for the devout to cleanse themselves of sin.
Other ethnicities taking part in the ‘cleansing’
The Body Piercing
It’s believed that a devotee should go to the extreme by inflicting as much torture as they can on their bodies to appease the Lord Murugan.
Many pierce their tongues and cheeks using spears as a constant reminder of the Lord, where their speech is impaired and therefore they have full concentration and better endurance in the walk. Consecrated ash is sprinkled over the hooks and skewers before they are removed from the flesh of the devotees. There is no blood shed during the process of piercing and removal of the hooks.
is a multicultural country and although Thaipusam is usually celebrated by the Indians, there have been sights of people from other races and ethnic groups that bear the kavadi and pay homage to Lord Murugan. People from all over the world come to witness this exciting festival unravel before their eyes.
Intriguing, isn’t it?
Koolred would like to give big thanks to our helpful Redster Pushparaaja
and his brilliant photos to paint us a picture of what goes on during Thaipusam. We could not have done it without you!
We have some Redsters who have shared their Thaipusam experiences on Koolred. Redster Andrea Tan
blogged about having the opportunity to witness Thaipusam
, claiming it’s a festival that everyone “should experience at least once in their lifetime”.
If you’re a Shutterbug and you wanna make Thaipusam your next photo visit this year, then check out Redster Riki Lee
’s photowalk as he shares his collection of photos as well as some tips
on Thaipusam photography.