Thaipusam at The Batu Caves
The Batu Caves in Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur is one of the most significant places in which the festival is commemorated. Each year, this particular event attracts over one million devotees and thousands of spectators from all over the world. The proceedings begin at midnight at the Sri Mahamariamman Temple in the heart of the city and finish at the sacred site of the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Devotees participate in the march which takes over eight hours and covers around 15km.
The procession consists of a constant flow of vigorous bodies. Bodies carrying the huge contraptions, kavadis, inserted with metal spikes into their sides, bodies upon which fruit and flowers hangs with hooks pierced through the skin, bodies impaled with spears, bodies constantly spinning, dancing and moving trance-like back and forth amidst the throng. Helpers try endlessly to hold the devotees up and stop them falling into the mesmerised onlookers who desperately try to capture the scenes on camera.
The preparations for Thaipusam actually begin 48 days before the event, where devotees will begin cleansing by fasting, prayers and taking a vow of celibacy, not eating meat or cutting their hair. On the day of the celebration the head is shaved and smeared with orange paste. Cheeks and tongues are pierced with vels, to signify the spear given to Murugan by his mother. They also prevent talking and are another sign of devotion. By renouncing the ability to talk the devotee can focus all their energies on the deity.