Thaipusam 2010: Faith, ritual and body piercings
Some would call it masochistic, even primitive. But for Hindu devotees, Thaipusam Festival is a day of thanksgiving and one of the most colorful and ritualistic festivals celebrated in Singapore -- just check out our image gallery above. Over the weekend of January 30 & 31, devotees demonstrated their piety by carrying milk pots and wooden kavadis over a 4.5 kilometer stretch in in honor of the Hindu God Subramaniam (Lord Murugan).
For those unfamiliar with the traditions, a kavadi is a heavy cage-like structure with spikes that are pierced through the bodies and skins of devotees seeking penance or to give thanks for wishes granted, fulfillment of vows and for good health. The ceremony starts in the early morning of January 30, where devotees carrying leave Sri Perumal Temple along Serangoon Road in Little India. They then make their way down to Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, forming a unbroken procession of spikes, hooks and milk pots, and often singing and dancing all the way to their destination.
The elaborately decorated spiked kavadis set off in the later part of the morning and continue till late night. The kavadi-carriers also enter a trance-like state after fasting for days, where most of them don't feel any pain -- there isn't even any blood from the piercings and weight of the kavadis. On reaching Sri Thandayuthapani Temple, the devotees get into a joyful frenzy as they offer the milk they have been carrying to Lord Murugan. It's hard not to be awed by the display of faith and piety at the sights of the colorful Thaipusam Festival procession.
And if you haven't had enough of ritualistic piercings, check out our coverage on the Phuket Vegetarian Festival in Thailand, complete with facial piercings and walking over hot coals.