Thaipusam © Peter Gronemann
Malaysia celebrates numerous religious festivals, but the best known and most popular with tourists is the Hindu test of faith and endurance, Thaipusam, held at the Batu Caves during the tenth month of the Hindu calendar. The festival is celebrated in a number of countries and commemorates the triumph of Murugan and his god-given spear over the evil demon Soorapadman. This festival, involving a procession of devotees carrying yokes (kavadi) and bearing offerings, up hundreds of steps, is not for the squeamish. The bearers, in a trance-like state, are often pierced with skewers through tongues and cheeks, with hooks and spears pierced through other body parts; at the very least they are carrying heavy burdens a long distance to demonstrate their faith and endurance. The procession follows a ceremonial decorated chariot drawn by bullocks. The procession to the caves starts at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in Kuala Lumpur and the journey of the devotees takes about eight hours. The temple at the caves attracts over a million pilgrims and tens of thousands of spectators for the event. Devotees prepare themselves for the festival by cleansing through prayer, celibacy and fasting, and many shave their heads for the occasion.
Venue: Batu Caves, about seven miles north of Kuala Lumpur
Date: 21 January 2019