Thaipusam is a Hindu festival in honor of Lord Muruga, the son of Shiva. The festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai on the day of the star Pusam - January 30th in 2010. In Singapore the festival attracts thousands of Tamil Hindus, Lord Muruga devotees and curious photographers! The images of the devotees performing Thaipusam rituals are sometimes graphic.
Thaipusam is a time for devotees to make offerings and to do penance to Lord Muruga for the relief of earthly calamities. Pilgrims also undertake rites and perform ceremonies to seek the help of Lord Muruga. One of the common rites performed is the carrying of a Kavadi, a physical burden, on a long ceremonial route between shrines to Lord Muruga.
In Singapore many of the devotees carry a heavy and elaborate Kavadi that is supported by a metal frame weighing up to 25 kilograms and attached to the body by skewers and hooks. Often the skin, tongue and cheeks are also pierced with spears and chains that support pots of milk and brass bells.
Devotees prepare for the physical suffering of carrying the Kavadi through prayer, fasting, meditation and celibacy over a thirty-day period. On Thaipusam day the devotees are silent and in a trance-like state. This is a supreme state of devotion and spiritual awakening. The endurance and pain tolerance is a great mystery. So too is the lack of blood when the skin is pierced.
The following images focus on portraits of the devotees who carry the Kavadi burden.
A shaved pilgrim wearing a traditional saffron cloth and carrying a symbolic cane drags a shrine dedicated to Lord Muruga with hooks attached to his back.
The festival ceremonies and the preparation of the Kavadis are accompanied by loud music and the burning of much incense.
Preparing pots of milk as offerings to Lord Muruga.
A devotee carrying a kavadi and surrounded by pilgrims on Seragoon Road.