Travel Guide


Thaipusam

Hair-raising, horrifying, death-defying are just one of the many adjectives that people have used to describe this festival. For Hindu devotees however, the Thaipusam Festival is a day of thanksgiving. With the piercings through his cheek, tongue and face, the devotee balances a kayadi on his shoulder and takes a journey of faith covering about 4 km. The ritualistic procession starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple on Serangoon Road and ends at the Sri Thandayuthapani Temple on Tank Road, accompanied by others, including young children, who would carry only milk pots.

A kavadi is a cage-like structure, usually adorned with peacock feathers and aluminium plates displaying images of Hindu deities, with sharp spikes dangerously criss-crossing its lower section. The kavadis can weigh up to 15 kg, but the devotees do not seem alarmed or harmed. In fact some can even skip around and dance with them, amazing though it might be. Kavadi-carriers usually consist of devotees seeking penance or expressing their gratitude for an answered prayer.

The devotees prepare for this festival by fasting from three days up to a month, taking the fast as a time to make their peace with the deities and grant them strength to get through the festival unscathed. Most carriers however claim that they feel no pain throughout the procession and surprisingly enough, no blood can be soon through these piercings.

The festival originates with the mythical tale of how Shiva instructed his dwarf sage, Agastya to install 2 hillocks in a southern part of India. Agastya then delegated this task to his disciple, Idumban to do it. However, Idumban was unable to lift the load and sought the help of a poorly dressed boy. This boy refused to help him and had the audacity to claim that the hillocks were his property. Enraged, Idumban wanted to teach the boy a lesson. However, it turned out that the boy was actually Murugan, the god of war and the patron deity of the Tamil land. Idumban quickly pleaded for forgiveness, swearing that everyone who came to the hill would have to bear a burden in the hillock's shape to worship Murugan. Idumban's life was spared and Murugan also delivered the hillock for his master. Worshippers who bear such a burden were granted their wishes, thus the festival of Thaipusam was born.

Thaipusam usually falls either in January or February and the place to watch this would be along Serangoon Road at Little India.
In 2012, Thaipusam took place on 7 February. It will take place on either 27 or 28 January in 2013.

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