This unique Hindu festival is definitely one for the books! It might have been an early morning wake-up call to get a glimpse of this spectacular event, but it was totally worth it.
The festival corresponds with the full moon at the end of January or beginning of February. Thaipusam is a highly symbolic Hindu festival celebrates the birthday of Lord Subramanian or the son of Lord Shiva. This festival was brought to Malaysia by immigrants from Southern India who still carry on the tradition today. Leading up to the event, Hindus prepare by fasting, praying, and observing austerities.
During Thaipusam thousands of followers off prayers either by piercing their body, pulling a chariot, or carrying a Kava: a wooden arch with two pots decorated with peacock feathers, or bearing a simple pot of milk up to the sacred shrine. In Malaysia, the walk is around 7 miles to the temple and devotees must climb the 272 steps up to the Batu caves to seek forgiveness for past deeds or to offer thanks to their God so wishes may be granted. Frequent requests are recovery from illnesses, success in business or to begot progeny.
Although, seeing jugs of milk is common to see as the profession makes its way to the temple more elaborate offerings capture your attention, as devotees passed by with large metal frames decorated with bells, feathers, fruit, and other spiritual symbols.
Those who wish to take part in skin piercing believe in “piercing the faithful” to show their devotion to their faith. It is unbelievable to witness the piercings the “faithful” have endured and is astonishing that no blood is ever seen from this event. Hindus believe the lack of blood is because the spirit is doing the piercing as he takes hold of the human flesh. Devotees are pierced through the cheeks, tongue, forehead and back, and one can see and hear the ripping of skin as this is being done. Often times fruit is used to heavy the burden of these piercings and pulling at the hooks in the backs of these devotees is all part of the test. Those who chose to get pierced overcome any form of pain by attuning their minds to only one thing– spiritual liberation from worldly desires.
I had the opportunity to witness Singapore’s own Tamil community take part in this ancient Hindu tradition. As devotees passed by with offerings to their God, one could hear the traditional musical instruments, and chants of “vel vel” or as in today’s words “who let the dogs out”- yes they were literally singing this haha.
Here are some more pictures I was able to take of devotees passing by the Doby Gaught MRT Station on their journey to the nearby Hindu temple:
If you want to see more of this Hindu tradition there is a neat video by National Geographic on it, and you can see the actual piercing taking place..makes me cringe every time! 😛 Thanks for reading as always 🙂
Here’s the link: http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/malaysia-thaipusam-pp