31 January 2010
As some of us may know, Singapore has a substantial number of people who are Hindu. These people are intense about their religion, and some of them takes some extraordinary measures to display their devotion – Thaipusam is an example of this.Yesterday, I witnessed this festival for the second time. This is a yearly event is celebrated by Tamils usually in January or February that commemorates a special day of worship to one of their god, Lord Muruga (also known as Subrahmanian). This deity is supposedly the universal granter of wishes. All those who wish to ask for a future favor, fulfill a vow in return for a granted favor, or to repent for past sins generally participate in this festival. I know a man who once participated in this festival in order to ask for a son; less than two years later, he got his son.
Thaipusam is most visually characterised by the procession in which devotees carry huge colorful shrines called kavadis. Sharp metal spikes and lots of hooks attached the kavadis which at the same time pierced into the body of the devotee. There were some people that showed their devotion by pulling along heavy shrines with religious images and icons by means of hooks pierced into their back. Most of these devotees have have multiple sharp piercings through their face or fruits hanging from hooks pierced onto their chest. Apart from this punishment in their flesh, these devotees had to endure the pain of marching barefooted for a good 4 km to get from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Chettiar Hindu Temple.
Gory as it may sound, it is amazing to note that through religious faith and trance, very little blood is shed. Occasionally, some of the devotees would go through a sudden trance and had to be helped or restrained by families or friends who are part of their entourage. It is said that intense preparation is needed in order to be successful in Thaipusam, these preparations includes sexual abstinence, a strict diet and of course lots of faith…