Thaipusam Devotee

During the month of February (sometimes the end of January) the Hindu people celebrate a festival known as Thaipusam. This festival is named after the months it occurs in (Thai – January/February) and the brightest star in the sky during this time (Pusam). The festival is to celebrate when Lord Murugan received the spear that enabled him to defeat the demon Soorapadman. 

To prepare for this festival devotees will fast for 48 days prior to the date of the festival, which is whenever the full moon is. Kavadi-bearers, like the man above, remain celibate and only eat holy food once a day during those 48 days. 

On the day of the festival the kavadi-bearers will attach the metal or wooden structure to their body and then carry it from Sri Mahamariamman Temple, a Hindu temple in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, all the way to the Batu Caves, which is a distance of approximately 15 kilometers, just under 9.5 miles. These structures can weigh up to 30 kg (66lbs!) and are supported by a metal brace around the waist and metal pipes attached to the skin with hooks. It looks and sounds painful, but that is the point. This carrying of a physical burden is a sign of thanks for helping the person or family avoid something bad or it is a method of imploring help and can also be a way to ask for forgiveness. 

It really was fascinating to see the amount of people willing to endure this hardship and pain for their god. Hindus are very devout people and I admire their dedication to their beliefs.