Back in early Feb, I got to witness one of the famous Hindu festivals – Thaipusam. It is celebrated by the Tamil community, which although smaller than some in Singapore, is most definitely present on this little island. Thaipusam celebrates Parvati giving Murugan a spear, so that he is able to vanquish an evil demon.
During Thaipusam, devotees walk a pilgrimage, carrying a burden (kavadi). This can be as simple as carrying a pot of milk, but some devotees go to the extremes of self-mortification where they are pierced with spears at various points over their bodies, from their torsos to their faces. The greater the pain the devotee goes through, the greater the merit that is earned with the gods. It sounds a bit grisley, but it’s actually really humbling to observe.
In Singapore, devotees leave from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple, and finish up 4km later at the Tank Road Temple. I went with a couple of friends down to Tank Road, so that we could watch the devotees arriving with their kavadis, but also see them being removed. I felt like I was witnessing something really special. The idea that someone could even bear having the kavadi attached, nevermind walk all that way in the heat, was astonishing. Even more amazing was the vibe in the crowd – so much chanting and singing, spuring the devotees on, some of them spinning and dancing with their kavadis attached.
Pictures are better than words when describing something like this, so here is a sample of some of the photos I managed to take on the day.