Aray, Ouch, Eeeehhhh... But No Blood?

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There are things that I simply can't understand. And there are things that are just there, no explanation needed. However, there are things that I demand explanation such as this festival. No matter how this festival has been humanized as I saw participants got the support of their whole family and friends, this still seemed not an ordinary family picnic at the park to me.

I think this is one of those festivals that I would go only once in my life. I am still not as sadist as I think i am. Skins getting pulled with hooks is not something I would want to see over and over...but I have to admit, this festival has caught my interest and I would say, is one of the most colorful festivals that I've ever seen. And it is a very powerful event, this is man's conquest over pain and all in the name of faith.
That is pretty compelling. Whatchatink?

I have been really really wanting to see this for 4 years already. Thaipusam festival would always fall on a weekday, so I can't really watch before. But this year, it was on a Saturday (Jan 30), perfect timing plus Little India is just a bus ride from my place. It was very convenient for me to go to the temple where the participants would originate.

I positioned myself at the gate of the temple so that I would see every one that would be coming from inside of the temple. I didn't dare to go inside of the temple because I would be force to take off my shoes. With hundreds or even thousands of sandals, shoes and slippers scattered outside, I rather not gamble on losing my shoes. I still have one festival to attend after this by the way.

For a brief of the festival, I wiki'ed it:

Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). It is also referred to as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam in the Malayalam language. The word Thai-pusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates both the birthday of Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of god Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.

Skanda (or Murugan) was created during one of the battles between the Asuras and the Devas. At one point, the latter were defeated several times by the former.
The Devas were unable to resist the onslaught of the Asura forces. In despair, they approached Shiva and entreated to give them an able leader under whose heroic leadership they might obtain victory over the Asuras. They surrendered themselves completely and prayed to Shiva. Shiva granted their request by creating the mighty warrior, Skanda, out of his own power or Achintya Shakti. He at once assumed leadership of the celestial forces, inspired them and defeated the Asura forces and to recognize that day the people created the festival

Kavadi Attam is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan, the Tamil God of War. It is often performed during the festival of Thaipusam and emphasizes debt bondage. The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the God Murugan.

Generally, Hindus take a vow to offer a kavadi to idol for the purpose of tiding over or averting a great calamity. For instance, if the devotee's son is laid up with a fatal disease, he would pray to Shanmuga to grant the boy a lease of life in return for which the devotee would take a vow to dedicate a kavadi to Him.

Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan. The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure, Satvik food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God. 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 vel skewers is also common. The simplest kavadi is a semi circular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance. Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.


So there... It's my first and probably my last for this festival. On the same manner that I would rather skip the Good Friday practices in Pampanga where they would re-enact the passion and death of the Christ with actual person getting crucified. For most part, once is enough.
planisphere says:
Posted on: Feb 03, 2010
sylviandavid says:
really good job of explaining this Hindi religous ritual.....
Posted on: Feb 03, 2010
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