Thaipusam


This post is a follow on from the last post on the topic of body scars.

This year, the 9th of February so happens to be Thaipusam which is a very special Hindu festival which is especially celebrated by the Tamil peoples throughout the world. It is celebrated on the full moon during the Tamil month of Thai. Pusam refers to a star that reaches its highest elevation in the sky during the festival. The festival honours the birthday of the Lord Murugam and his acquisition of the spear that would enable him to triumph over the evil demon Soorapadman.

Today, the festival has been celebrated in India and nearly every other part of the world where there is a sizeable Tamil community. There are major celebrations in Malaysia and in Singapore. The main site of the celebration in Kuala Lumpur is at the massive limestone outcrop called Batu Caves where today, more than 1.3 million devotees and tourists converged.

One major component of the festival is the carrying of the kavadi. Devotees who have asked favours from or prayed to the Lord Murugam often make pledges to carry the kavadi. The simplest form of the kavadi is a semi-circular frame with a wooden rod which is placed across the shoulders of the devotee. Other forms include piercing the skin and supporting the kavadi with metal spokes or spears. Another variant involves using hooks embedded into the skin to carry heavy objects or to pull a chariot. Other devotees may pass a skewer through their cheeks. Basically, the more pain you endure, the more merit you score.

Kavadi Carrier, Thaipusam Festival, Penang

However, devotees go through a strict purification ritual which includes prayers and specific diets. Special powders are applied and prayers chanted. As a result, most devotees enter a trance-like state where they seem to feel no pain from their self-inflicted wounds.

Dude, do you know you have a bunch of hooks in your back?

These kavadis may be carried along a procession route but in Kuala lumpur, they end up at Batu Caves where they will be carrried up these 272 steps leading to the cave temple complex.

its a long way up, imagine doing this with the spiked kavadi for thaipusam
Another aspect which is very much identified with the festival is the smashing of coconuts as offerings after their prayers. This results in a sea of smashed coconuts which is entusiastically welcomed by resident monkeys but less so by the cleaning crews the next day.
Smashing the coconut

This squirrel has been to Batu Caves a number of times and it certainly worth a visit if you are ever in Kuala Lumpur. However, this squirrel is also smart enough not to be there in the mad crush of 1.3 million people in the equatorial heat and humidity.

That is all for now from this squirrel, reporting from a safe and comfortable distance from the Batu Caves.

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