Once a year, around late January or early February depending on the cycle of the lunar month, Thaipusam is celebrated by Hindus all over the world.
Thaipusam is the festival that is dedicated to the Hindu deity Lord Muragan. Legend has it that it is on this day that the Goddess Parvati presented a ‘Vel’ to Lord Murgan to annihilate Tarakasura’s demon army.
As such, Thaipusam is regarded as a celebration of good over evil. In Malaysia, Thaipusam is celebrated with much fervor because the Indians represent one of the three major races in Malaysia.
Thaipusam is also the festival where you will get to see some really freaky stuff!
The thought of a meter long metal skewer piercing the cheeks or tongues of the devotees is enough to send shivers down one’s spine! Some of the devotees also have giant hooks latched onto their backs.
Each year, over a million people converge to Batu Caves to celebrate and witness the Thaipusam festival. The crowd starts to gather around midnight on the eve of Thaipusam. To cater for the influx of commuters during this time, the KTM and Putra LRT trains normally have their schedules extended.
The highlight of the Thaipusam festival is witnessing the arrival of the consecrated statue of Sri Subramaniar Swamy. This statue is kept at the Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown for most of the year. On
Thaipusam a bullock drawn chariot, with the heavily adorned deity, is transported to Batu Caves where devotees carry it up
the 272 steps to the Temple Cave.
Along the 8 hour journey from Chinatown to Batu Caves, the chariot will make several
stops for devotees to offer their prayers and to smash coconuts on the road. The smashing of coconuts signifies the
triumph of good over evil.
The other highlight of the Thaipusam festival is the witnessing of the kavadi bearers.
The kavadi is a wooden or metal frame, arched semi-circular to support a carrier foisted with brass or clay pots of milk. These fames have metal skewers…yes! … metal skewers with their pointed ends piercing the skin of the kavadi bearer’s torso.
And if you think modern day body piercing practices are extreme, then wait until you witness the kavadi bearers!
Upon arriving at the foot of the 272 steps, the kavadi bearers have to make the arduous journey up to the Temple Cave. It is no small feat as some of these kavadis can weigh up to a hundred kilograms.
When the kavadi bearers have
reached the Temple cave, they will offer their prayers to the consecrated statue of Sri Subramaniar Swamy which now
resides inside the chamber of Temple Cave, after the chariot journey from Chinatown in Kuala Lumpur.
The priests will then sprinkle consecrated ash over the hooks and skewers that pierce the kavadi bearers’ torso, before they are removed.
Surprisingly, no blood is seen to be shed during both the piercing and removal of the hooks and skewers. Despite being perceived by an outsider as a shocking and ghastly practice, it is said by the Hindus that Thaipusam is a celebration of spiritual attainment, a celebration of life and a celebration of good triumphing over evil.
Have A Great Story About the Thaipusam Festival?
Have you been to the Thaipusam Festival in Kuala Lumpur?
What did you think of the festival? Did you go during the Thaipusam festival?
Tell us all about it, share your Thaipusam Festival experience with your fellow travellers.