Thaipusam is one festival event anyone should experience at least once in their lifetime, especially when they have the opportunity to do so.
I'm not saying that you should join in the procession of kavadi-carrying devotees with pierced bodies and all - unless you're a Hindu and is willing and ready to partake in such spiritual endeavor,by all means do as you wish - but rather, as a witness of an amazing religious event.
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated largely by the Tamil community during the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai, which falls around January or February each year. It commemorates the birth of Lord Muruga (also known as Murugan and several other names), the God of War and the youngest son of Shiva and his consort Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Muruga a vel
(or lance) to vanquish the evil rakshasa
In Malaysia, Thaipusam is a grand affair. So much so that the festival here is known internationally and continues to draw many devotees and visitors to witness this one day festival annually.
The focal point of Thaipusam in Malaysia is Batu Caves (refer to my travel review on Where to Go
for more details), located in Gombak just outside Kuala Lumpur.
I took the opportunity to go a few years back when I was visiting friends in Kuala Lumpur and we all decided to get an up-close look of what Thaipusam is really about.
With my camera in tow, I joined my friends as we took the Kommuter train and a very packed bus to Batu Caves. We reached there mid-morning- though heading there earlier would be better - and it was so crowded,so colorful and so happening at the same time. People of all ages,devotees and visitors alike, converged here.
The procession was heading towards its end already. But there were still a number of large, heavy and ornate kavadis being carried on the pierced devotees from the flat temple grounds up the steep 272 steps to the Batu Caves temple entrance. And that alone is a very long walk.
I didn't went up the Batu Caves steps and remained at the temple grounds. I'll admit I am a little squimish looking at people with heavily pierced bodies and faces - especially in odd places like through cheeks, tongues and all. That's why I didn't venture to where the devotees were getting the piercing done.
Keep in mind, when watching the procession, don't stand too close. You don't want to bump into any of the devotees as some are in a deep trance, chanting, to even notice you. Plus, you don't want to get accidentally pierced at the same time, right?
So snapping photos was quite a challenge and I had to be careful. But I was pleased with what I managed to capture. I seriously photographed till my battery ran out!
The experience was surreal that even till today I'm not even sure how to describe it properly. Seeing these devotees and this cleansing and ceremonial worship ritual before my very eyes made me admire their faith and their spiritual strength to bear the heavy kavadis (I was told that there was nothing physical about this feat. It's all in the mind). It's one thing to see this on TV or in the newspapers, it's a whole different feeling witnessing it then and there, in the middle of everything.
The devotees comes in all shapes and sizes, gender and races. There were a number of female devotees when I was at Batu Caves. And I read in the papers the following day that this number is growing each year.
I definitely recommend anyone to witness this festival. Do check the Malaysian public holiday calendar (You can Google this up) to confirm the date of Thaipusam each year when you plan your trip. This year
, it'll be on February 8 (this coming Sunday). So why not grab this opportunity?