Thaipusam Hindu Festival, Singapore 2008
Thaipusam is the most dramatic Hindu festival. Conventional wisdom is that it celebrates the day that the Goddess Parvathi gave her son Murugan the invincible vel (lance) to vanquish the evil asuras (demons) Soorpadman, Singamugam and Tarakasuran as well as their army of soldiers.
An alternative story is that one day, during the full moon of the Tamil month of 'Thai", Idumban, a devotee of Lord Subramaniam received a divine message to go to the hills to pay homage to the Lord. All the way to the shrine, Idumban sang hymns in praise of Lord Subramaniam to forget the weight he had to bear. Pleased with the devotion shown by Idumban, the Lord showered many blessings on him. Thaipusam commemmorates Idumban's devotion and it is believed that devotees carrying the kavadi will have their wishes granted. (Thanks to Singapore Hindu Endowment Board for advising of this story)
In Singapore men pierce their bodies with spikes and metal hooks supporting heavy structures called kavadis decorated with peacock feathers and offerings. In a trance, they process the four kilometres from the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple in Tank Road. Women and children carry pots of symbolic milk, although some women do also pierce their faces. At the end of the procession the metal spikes and hooks are removed to the sound of loud chanting and the wounds are smeared with ash to avoid bleeding and infection. See also Thaipusam 2006
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