Thursday, February 1, 2007

Singapore - Thaipusam Indian Festival

The festival of Thaipusam is one of the most dramatic Hindu festivals and is now banned in India. This is a big South Indian festival celebrated here in Singapore. It is a day long affair where devotees carry a pronged ornament from one temple to another, which covers a distance of about 3 km.

Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with skewers is also common. The most spectacular practice is the vel kavadi, essentially a portable altar up to two meters tall, decorated with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee through 108 prongs pierced into the skin on the chest and back. It is claimed that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left behind.

There are supporters of family and friends who gather around the devotees chanting prayers, clapping their hands, and encouraging those devotees all along the way until they reach their destination.

We have not taken these photos below ourselves, but we did go to the end of the festival in the evening. This is where everyone finishes the pilgrimage and takes off their Kavadi. It was incredible!