This one’s not for the faint hearted!
When: February 7th 2012.
Where: India, Malaysia, Mauritius and Singapore.
The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is about faith, endurance and penance. It’s a highly colourful, event which can stretch for 3 or 4 days and is in honour the Hindu God, Lord Murugan. The festival commemorates the time when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) in order to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.
On the day of the festival, devotees will cleanse themselves, shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route whilst carrying various types of kavadi (burdens) as an act of devotion to Murugan. At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but piercing of the flesh (mostly tongue or cheeks) with vel skewers or spears is also common. This act of face piercing is to remind the bearer constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents speech and therefore gives a greater power of endurance.
The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. Some kavadis have long chains hanging down with hooks at the end which are pushed into the back of the bearer. Others go to even greater lengths and pull heavy chariots fastened to metal hooks in the skin of their backs.
The devotees who go to these extremes don’t appear to feel any pain because they are in a spiritual and devotional trance, having given themselves to the protection of Lord Murugan who will not allow them to shed blood or suffer.
The word Thaipusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. Thaipusam is held in the last week of January or the beginning of February, depending on the alignment of the sun, moon and planets. The festival us celebrated for a few days surrounding this date.
We have found lots more Thaipusam pictures on flickr. (Not for the faint hearted or squeamish!). Have you been to the Thaipusam Festival yourself? If so, please tell us all about it! You can share your pics and videos on our facebook page too! Or if you just want to say hi, or leave a comment for any other reason, we’d love to hear from you.
Hindus are vegetarian so eat Sabzi Kari (vegetable curry). Try our recipe for Sabzi Kari. Hindus do not drink alcohol, but Indian beers are available. Try Cobra or Tiger beer.
The states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India have large scale celebrations – Palani in Tamil Nadu is probably the biggest. The largest celebrations outside India take place in Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Mauritius and Singapore.
Dates / venues may be subject to change or cancellation. Distances may be straight-line estimates. Please verify information before booking.
Enjoy your trip! And when you’re home we’d love you to come back and tell us all about it!