Photos from the Shoebox: Thaipusam Festival, Singapore 1991
If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.
You can’t live life without feeling some pain. It’s January in Singapore and thousands of devotees have come together to participate in the Hindu Festival of Thaipusam. Based on the legend of Lord Murugan, who slayed demons causing chaos on earth, the festival is a celebration of good over evil.
Devotees prepare one month ahead by purifying their minds and bodies by eating a strict vegetarian diet and abstaining from sexual pleasures. Then on the day of the festival hundreds will be pierced with hooks, skewers or lances. Men will carry heavy structures called Kavadis while women and youth take part by carrying milk pots as offerings. Some will pierce their tongues.
Some devotees pull chariots with hooks pierced in their backs. They put themselves into a trance like state which stops them from feeling pain.
Some devotees carry spiked Kavadis that can reach three to four metres in height, and weigh at least 30kgs. They are decorated with peacock feathers and flowers.
It’s a festival of blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks. Participants join the pilgrimage which starts at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple and stretches over 4 km to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple.
It’s not an easy festival to watch especially if you’re the least bit squeamish but it certainly shows how far one will go to express their devotion and faith. The event is held on the day of the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai. This year the festival falls on February 3, 2015.