Hindu devotees celebrate Thaipusam with piercings, procession

Hindu devotees prepare for a Kavadi procession from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple during Thaipusam in Singapore on February 9, 2017.
PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR/SINGAPORE - Men carrying decorated structures called "kavadi" dance in circles to the beat of drums, as others with their cheeks pierced with skewers pull chariots using cords attached to hooks on their backs during a grand procession.

Hindu devotees in India and across the world on Thursday marked Thaipusam, a religious celebration dedicated to the deity Lord Murugan.

The annual festival, which has become a major cultural highlight, takes place on a grand scale in Southeast Asia at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam Temple at Batu Caves just outside of Kuala Lumpur.

Similar to Lent and the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand, Thaipusam represents a time of self-sacrifice and penance, as gratitude for boons fulfilled.

Hindu devotees in Singapore and Malaysia celebrate Thaipusam in 2017

  • Men carrying decorated structures called "kavadi" dance in circles to the beat of drums, as others with their cheeks pierced with skewers pull chariots using cords attached to hooks on their backs during a grand procession.
  • Hindu devotees on Feb 9 marked Thaipusam, a religious celebration dedicated to the deity Lord Murugan.
  • In Singapore, live music is being played at the procession for the second year in a row.
  • About 50,000 people are expected to throng the streets to mark the annual Hindu festival.
  • Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power.
  • Devotees seek blessings and fulfil their vows by carrying milk pots as offerings.
  • Thaipusam is celebrated in honour of Lord Murugan, who represents virtue, youth and power.
  • Many also carry kavadis - structures of steel and wood - and pierce their bodies with steel rods and hooks.
  • In Singapore, devotees will embark on a procession from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road.
  • Last year's procession was the first in 42 years where live music was played.
  • The chariot carrying Sri Murugan arrives at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road on the evening of Feb 8, 2017.
  • Decorative horses line the chariot carrying Sri Murugan as it arrives at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
  • Said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Feb 8): "For Hindu devotees participating this year, I wish you a meaningful and blessed ceremony."
  • This year's procession expects to draw 569 kavadi bearers and 9,661 devotees bearing milk pots.
  • In Malaysia, the annual festival takes place on a grand scale in Southeast Asia at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Devasthanam Temple at Batu Caves just outside of Kuala Lumpur.
  • Young boys in Malaysia carrying milk pots.
  • A Malaysian Hindu devotee reacts in a state of trance as he walks towards the Batu caves temple.
  • The exact date of Thaipusam changes each year in the Gregorian calendar, as it is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai in the Hindu calendar.

In addition to shaving their heads and going on a strict vegetarian diet before the festival, devotees carry symbolic burdens called "kavadi", which can range from clay pots of milk to two-metre-high bowed metal frames decorated with peacock feathers and small statues of deities.

"This is my ninth time. The first time, I did this because I had a health problem," said devotee Sivanyana Bashkaran, who winced as he had hooks placed on his back.

"So I came here, and I prayed to him (Lord Murugan) to cure my illness, saying that I would come back every year and do this for him. Then all my problems ended, and so I started to do it."

The exact date of Thaipusam changes each year in the Gregorian calendar, as it is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai in the Hindu calendar.

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