sign in a cave in Laos

30 August 2008

Thaipusam - Travellers Voice Magazine

Travellers Voice Magazine -- Thaipusim in Malaysia
A fascinating look at Hindu ceremonies in Malaysia

Thaipusam in Malaysia - by Liz Price

In Malaysia I witnessed one of the most bizarre spectacles of my life, the Hindu festival of Thaipusam. A combination of devout fervour, supreme sacrifice and thanksgiving to the deity Lord Subramaniam.

Devotees carry a kavadi bearing offerings, this yoke is anchored by hooks pierced into the body, and the devoteeÍs tongue and cheeks are also skewered with long metal needles. Other hooks are attached into the flesh of the back, on which hang bells and small containers of milk. All these hooks and skewers are inserted without shedding a drop of blood. It is definately mind over matter.

The participants walk to Batu Caves, and then have to climb 272 steps up to the cave temple in 33C temperature. Some devotees donÍt carry the kavadi, instead they make their penance by rolling all the way to the cave. Most are in a trance and wail and scream like banshees.

It is quite eerie, especially in the cave, as the atmosphere is full of the smoke of burning camphor, used for the offerings. Fresh coconuts are smashed, symbolising the washing away of sins. Once the penitent has completed his pilgrimage, the skewers and hooks are removed, and ash smeared over the wounds - there is rarely any bleeding. He is brought out of his trance and most of them look utterly exhausted. A fascinating spectacle.

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