India is perhaps the most religious country in the world. Its festivals are a direct reflection of how much Indians believe in offering their prayers to god. There is no doubt that people will go to any lengths to show their devotion.
However, there is one such festival in South India which is quite extreme and intense for people to experience. The Tamil centric Thaipusam festival will blow your mind once you see devotees getting pierced and carry heavy objects attached to their bodies with hooks as a way of commemorating the festival.
If you are witnessing this spectacle for the first time, prepare yourself to be confused and enthralled. But what is the mythical story behind Thaipusam festival? Read on to find out why people go through all the pain with a smile to please their god.
Astronomical significance or just a religious belief
If you wish to see the religious side of South India, pack your bags to witness the Thaipusam festival celebrated by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai i.e. January/February. This procession usually coincides with Pushya star (nakshatra in Indian astrology).
Thaipusam derives its name from a combination of the name of the month, Thai and name of the star, Pusam.
Lord Murugan’s victory over Demons
Dive deep in India’s religious literature and know that Thaipusam festival is actually celebrated to honour Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva and Parvati and Hindu god of war. Many devotees believe that on this auspicious day, Parvati presented Murugan with a Vel (Spear) to banish the demonic entity Soorapadman.
It is a fascinating thing to know that many people also believe that Thaipusam is celebrated to mark Lord Murgan’s victory over Soorapadman’s brother Tarakasura. This festival is just a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
Kavadi Attam- A ceremonial sacrifice and offering
People over here take part in the ceremonial sacrifice and offering of Kavadi Attam. They entail walking the pilgrimage route through food offerings, dance and self-piercing of the body. All those who are a part of the religious procession sometimes offer milk, water, fruits or flower decorations on the Kavadi.
Kavadi is a semi-circular canopy with a wooden rod that a pilgrim carries on their shoulders to Murugan temples. In order to honor the god of war, the canopy is covered with feathers of peacock i.e the vehicle of Lord Murugan.
However, this journey of penance is made barefoot and can take more than a week depending on the location of the temple.
Faith and belief in God make Kavadi bearers perform difficult ceremonies. They observe celibacy and consume only Satvik food once a day. On the day of the festival, pilgrims shave their head and walk towards the humble abode of god.
Self- mortification? A way to please god?
Thaipusam festival involves some extremities as well. Many devotees torture themselves to seek blessings and please their god. They pierce their tongue, skin or cheeks with vel, hooks, skewers etc. Piercing of tongue and cheek is a symbolic gesture to give up speech and solely concentrate on pleasing the almighty.
So, did this religious and mythical journey compel you to pack your bags and head to one of the most unusual festivals of India or would you like to awaken your spiritual side from afar?
Curated by Ruchit Rastogi