Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Thaipusam Celebration at Batu Caves

Last Saturday, the Hindus in Malaysia celebrated Thaipusam. In the states of Selangor, Penang, Perak, Negri Sembilan and Johor, Thaipusam is a public holiday.

Thaipusam is a festival to celebrate the event when Lord Murugan received the Vel (Holy Spear) from His Mother, Goddess Parvathi.

The Vel, a symbol of light and wisdom was used by Lord Murugan to rid the world of the three asuras (demonic beings) and bring peace and balance back to the Heavens and Earth. Thus, the Vel is the protecting and purifying force of Lord Murugan and Thaipusam is a celebration of these forces.

Thaipusam is also a time to beseech Lord Murugan's blessing to lessen the burden of bad karmas from wrong doings and to make lives more positive. Therefore, Thaipusam is a festival that is marked by acts of penance such as carrying the kavadi. Carrying kavadi is a practice of penance or prayaschittam.

The tradition of carrying kavadi was started by a great devotee of Lord Muruga, Idumban, who worshipped Lord Murugan at the Palani Hills temple in Tamil Nadu state, India. He created the first kavadi. It was a simple structure that consisted of a straight horizontal branch of a tree with two small pots of milk tied at either end and decorated by a wooden arch, flowers and peacocks tail feathers. Idumban also pierced a small vel shaped skewer across his cheeks. Idumban carried the kavadi from the foothills of Palani to Lord Murugans Palani Andavan temple at the summit of the hills and offered the milk for Lord Palanis (the form of Lord Murugan as a renunciate monk) abishegam (abhishegam: is the bathing of a deity during the puja ceremony. Many natural substances such as milk, honey, rose water and sacraments are used to bathe the deity. Abishegam is a gesture of appreciation of God).

This photo that I took on last Saturday in Batu Caves, showed the piercing of a man's back with hooks. This is an act of penance by a fellow devotee. The video below showed how this man was put into a trance before the piercing was carried out. It's amazing to see there's no blood shed nor pain when the hooks were pierced now when the rope tied to these hooks were pulled by someone from the back. For those who have not experienced Thaipusam celebration, it's an eye-opening and fascinating experience that no words can described. I am looking forward to another visit to Batu Caves next year.

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