Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai, which falls either in January or February every year. As one of the biggest and most important festivals for the community, the celebration is about faith, endurance and penance. It is to show the devotees appreciation to Lord Murugan, where those who have made their vows and prayers to Lord Murugan will subject themselves to a sacrificial act in return for an answered prayer.
Devotees willcarry the kavadi to offer thanks to Lord Murugan, ask for forgiveness, or keep a vow. It is a decorated structure bearing the image of several deities including Lord Murugan. It is definitely one of the most fascinating sights, as devotees will attach the kavadi, which can weigh up to 100 kg, totheir body with long skewers and hooks that pierce through their skin and they will go into a trance. Prior to performing the ritual, the devotees have to prepare themselves by cleansing their bodies through fasting and abstinence, and maintaining a strict vegetarian diet.
Besides carrying the kavadi, other forms of sacrificial act include piercing skewers to tongue and cheeks, carrying pots of milk (done by women), and shaving the head (for children), as well as other social services like distributing foods and drinks to devotees.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Thaipusam festival chariot procession from Sri Maha Mariamman Temple near Chinatown to Batu Caves is definitely a fascinating sight to behold. Devotees, conducting all forms of sacrificial acts, will walk along the 9.5 miles journey with bare feet, which takes about eight hours. Along the way, traditional musical instruments are played, while the devotees chant "Vel, Vel". Upon reaching Batu Caves, they will climb 272 steps to reach the cave entrance.
Every year, the celebration of Thaipusam at Batu Caves attracts thousands of tourists, both local and foreign. Witnessing this fascinating and colourful festival is definitely an experience not to be missed!