This is one of the most colourful Hindu festivals in the country. Although a religious festival, its gaiety sometimes reminds one of the "Mardi Gras" in Rio De Janeiro.
It is said that on this day the stars, Pusan and Brihaspati, are united into one. The Hindus believe that by celebrating Thaipusam, they are cleansed from all sins and that their sins can be redeemed in many ways. Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Muruga, a popular Hindu deity. Since the traditional abode of Lord Muruga is the hill, the celebration is held in hilly areas. The festival is celebrated on a grand scale at Batu Caves in Selangor. Before the actual day, Hindus taking part in the ceremony prepare themselves by fasting, dieting on certain food and maintaining self-discipline.
On the eve of the festival, the bejewelled image of Lord Muruga is taken on a grand procession in a silver chariot from the Sri Maha Mariamman temple in Jalan Bandar in Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves where it is placed in the temple area. In an atmosphere electric with drumming and chanting, holy water is sprinkled on the deity's route and thousands of fresh coconuts are smashed, symbolizing the washing away of sins.
Thousands of devotees converge on the temple grounds to pay hommage to Lord Muruga including penitents who carry 'kavadis' (ornate frames supported by metal spikes inserted in the bearer's body) and chant their way up the 272 steps of Batu Caves in fulfilment of their vows for favours received. The amazing sight is the ease with which the penitents carry the gaily decorated wooden or steel yoke anchored by hooked pierced into their body, with their tongues and cheeks also skewered with long metal needles – all without spilling a single drop of blood!
Another place where you can observe this religious festival on a big scale is the Waterfall temple in Penang.
This article has been transferred from Expat KL
This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com