Saturday, January 22, 2011

Living In Malaysia: Celebrating Thaipusam

It was Thaipusam two days ago. Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrating the time when Lord Murugan killed the demon Soorapadman that was harassing mankind.

While all the Hindus in Malaysia celebrate this holiday, the Tamil people in particular consider it their feast.

The celebration is a mix of pilgrimage and holiday. People walk for miles from one temple to another to thank the gods for various blessings, and to ask for particular favours.

It's also a time to make sacrifices. The men shave their heads, and a long walk while saying prayers is standard practice.

Others make special sacrifices. They become vegan some 6 weeks before the festival, abstain from sex, and cleanse themselves of evil thoughts.

On the day, they carry heavy milk jars on their heads.  Others fix objects with hooks through the flesh. It's also common to see people pierce their cheeks with nails. These rituals are called "burdens" or "kahvedhi".

It the devotees are pure, they don't feel the pain. My mate Sara did this when he was young, and he says he felt nothing, and he also has no scars.

Batu Caves, the temple I blogged about some time ago, is one of the biggest centres, attracting some 1.5 million people. If you want to see more pics, check out the article I wrote for The Star.

My friend Kumar who did his worship two days before the holiday proper, says he was really happy to see Christians and Buddhists turning out to support this Hindu holiday. Some handed out sugarcane juice, a popular energy drink, and others oranges - either for thirst quenching or because Chinese New Year is coming up.

I'm too squeamish to go see the rituals for myself so these burden pics are from Wikipedia.


sully86 said...

i would freak out too watching the procession

BeadedTail said...

Very interesting but not something I think I could watch!

Admiral Hestorb said...

I am very interested in all you are telling us I have many Indian friends and several are Tamil.
I am fond of the area you are presently in, as well.

Brian said...

Ouch on the nail thing, even if they say it doesn't hurt! Sounds like a nice festival though!

Jans Funny Farm said...

Hmmm, Jan would be too squeamish too. It looks painful. Glad they - or some? - don't feel pain.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

I was there on Sat for the cleanup! All that rubbish in the House of God -- Malaysians are probably very bold or plain stupid! What's the use of trying to please God with your milk pots and then leaving litter everywhere?