Thaipusam is an important festival of South Indian Hindus,which celebrated on full moon,during the south Indian month of Thai (January-February).In foreign countries it is mostly celebrated by the Tamil speaking Hindus,settled in Malaysia,Singapore,South Africa,Sri. Lanka etc.
Thaipusam is dedicated to the Hindu God Murugan,the son of Shiva and Parvati.Murugan is also known as Kartikeya,Skanda,Subramaniam,Sanmukha, Shadanana and Guha.Legend says, on this day, Goddess Parvati presented a spear(Vel) to Lord Murgan to finish the demon army of demon Tarakasura and put an end to their evil deeds.Hence, Thaipusam commomorates the victory of good over evil.
On the Thaipusam day,thet devotees of Lord Murugan offer him yellow color fruits and flowers which is his favorite color.They also wear yellow dresses. Many devotees bear milk, water, fruits and floral tributes in 'Kavadi' on their shoulders to various Murugan temples.The 'Kavadi' is covered with cloth and decorated with feathers of peacock,the peacock being the mount of Lord Murugan.
Devotees perform 'Kavadi Attam' dance during the ceremonial worship of God Murugan.People vow to offer Kawadi to the God to get relief from the miseries in life.Thai Pusam festival is conducted at Nallur Kandhasamy Temple,where many Tamil devotees take part in celebrations, irrespective of the religion. Tamils from Roman Catholic faith and Muslims also take part in Thai Pusam celebrations and take Kavadis.
Thaipusam celebrations in south-east Asia ie Malaysia and Singapore are very well known.On the Thaipusam day the most famous Kavadi pilgrimage is held at the Batu Caves in Malaysia.Devotees in large numbers walk in procession towards the Murugan temple by carrying the 'Kavadi'.In Kuala Lampur,millions of people gather every year at the Batu Caves, which houses many Hindu shrines and the 43 meter tall statue of Lord Murugan.
The pilgrims have to climb 272 steps to access the temple on the hilltop.Many foreigners also take part in this Kavadi pilgrimage.Mr.Carl Vedivella Belle of Australia has been taking part in the pilgrimage for last more than ten years,and also Mr.Rainer Krieg of Germany.
The preparation for the celebration,by devotees, is done by shaving the heads,cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting.There are eleborate ceremonies the Kavadi-bearers have to perform,at the time of assuming the kavadi and offering it to Murugan.The kavadi-bearer observes celibacy and take only pure food, once a day, while continuously thinking of God.On the day of the festival, devotees will undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion and carrying various types of Kavadis.
The kavadi may be a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple.In addition, some have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheeks reminds him constantly of Lord Murugan. It also prevents him from speaking and gives great power of endurance.
Other types of kavadi involve hooks stuck into the back and either pulled by another walking behind or being hung from a decorated bullock cart or more recently a tractor, with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. The greater the pain the more god-earned merit.
The main attraction of Thaipusam festival is body piercing with hooks, skewers and small spears called 'Vel'.Some of the devotees pull heavy objects like chariots etc.with hooks attached to their bodies. Many devotees pierce their tongue and chics to mute the speech so as to get full concentration on the Lord.With the sound of incessant drumming and chanting of "Vel Vel Shakti Vel.",devotees enter into a trance during such piercing.