From Kavadi dances to head shaving and body piercings, you might have seen some of the sacred rituals and practices of Thaipusam. Every year, more than a million people across the world flock to Batu Caves during this auspicious celebration to praise the God of War in Hindu mythology, Lord Murugan (aka Kartikeya). It is at this temple where you can find the tallest statue of Lord Murugan in the world.
The Kavadi & The Pilgrimage
A Hindu devotee adding the final touches of flowers onto the Kavadi.
Legend has it that on this day, Lord Murugan vanquished the demon Tarakasuran with “vel”, a sacred spear gifted to Murugan by his mother, Parvathi. To commemorate the day that Murugan saved humankind, devotees carry heavy
A Kavadi bearer receiving blessings before he begins his pilgrimage.
To prepare for the pilgrimage,
On the 48th day of fasting, pilgrims gather nearby Batu Caves to begin their journey. An elaborate prayer session is conducted by the lead
A Kavadi bearer performing rituals and blessings.
Once the prayers and rituals are complete, the Kavadi bearers begin their journey. They walk on the road,, carrying a 30kg heavy
Devotees wear yellow and orange robes,
During Thaipusam, devotees also perform mortifications of the flesh by piercing their tongue, back, or cheeks as a sign of sacrifice to defeat the pilgrim’s inner demons and to obtain the blessings of the gods.
Piercing the tongue and cheeks resemble the sacrifice of giving up the gift of speech. It is believed that submitting oneself and surrendering the body enables them to feel no pain, nor bleed due to the blessings
Another common ritual that can be seen is the act of head shaving. Devotees get their heads shaved as a sign of being reborn and to remove the sins of the past. Hair is also presented to the gods as an offering, as hair is seen as a matter of pride and by offering it to the gods, it is believed to remove pride and arrogance in devotees. With the absence of pride and arrogance, devotees believe they can be closer to the gods.
Thaipusam celebrations and pilgrimages have been going on since 1892. Every year, more and more people flock to Batu Caves to experience one of the most electrifying atmospheres and eye opening experiences in the world. Lord Murugan continues to be widely worshipped in his cave temples across the world.
If you’d like to know more about why Lord Murugan’s temples are always located near mountain ranges, check out our next article(these words to be linked to next post), which story is derived from Hindu mythology.