Saturday, February 6, 2010

Thaipusam @ Batu Caves 2010

On the January 31st, it was the Thaipusam festival and we as Malaysian especially west Malaysia announce it as a public holiday. Mark, a friend of mine where I get to know from the recent LiveWire media conference gave an idea to do a photography outing for that special event.

My place Bandar Baru Selayang to Batu Caves is just 10 minutes away but because of the hectic traffic jam, my friend took about 1 hour to reach my place, so I can actually imagine the jam near Batu Caves at that point of time. We reach there at about 4am and the place was already packed with devotees, tourists and photographers.

Look at the number of humans that is entering the main entrance of Batu Caves!

For those who don't know what is Thaipusam all about, here are some of the facts I got from wikipedia :)
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan/Feb). It is also referred to as Thaipooyam or Thaippooyam in the Malayalam language. The word Thai-pusam is derived from the month name Thai and Pusam, which refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates both the birthday of Murugan (also Subramaniam), the youngest son of God Shiva and his wife Parvati, and the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel (spear) so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman.

This is Batu Caves at 4am on the 31st January 2010


Facts: Standing at 42.7 meter (140.09 ft) high, the world's tallest statue of Murugan, a Hindu deity, is located outside Batu Caves, near the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The statue, which cost approximately Rupees 24 million, is made of 1550 cubic metres of concrete, 250 tonnes of steel bars and 300 litres of gold paint brought in from neighboring Thailand.

To me, the scene there was quite an eye opening as this was my first time to witness such an event at Batu Caves, my heart was literally assaulted to look at the faith of the Devotees who carry kavadis ('burdens' in Tamil) - paal kudams (milk pots), portable altars decorated with peacock feathers, small or big kavadis, all the way to the top. Chants of 'Vel! Vel!' ring out with the steps taken and also the pain that they did not felt at that moment, piercing through their whole body and face...

Facts: On the day of the festival, devotees will shave their heads undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common.

A young boy who joined the Kavadi parade puts a smile on his face to show the satisfaction of being part of the biggest Thaipusam festival in the Malaysia and may be in the whole world itself!

After the sunrises, there are more people who came to witness the festival themselves regardless of the big crowd and hectic traffic jam that they were facing!

The river bank where all the chanting, preparation, piercing and possessing started!

This shower is done not only as a welcome to beat the midday heat but it was essential to cleanse before prayer.

A young man is helping to shave another on this auspicious day.

Facts: Devotees participating in Thaipusam, especially if they are carrying kavadi, prepare for the festival anywhere between one month to nine days before the festival. These preparations can include not to cut their hair nor shave and abstain from carnal pleasures.

FYI, the liquid inside his mouth is not blood. It's some kind of mixture which I'm not so sure about.

A man is helping to pierce on the man's chest.

Mark, Natasha and ME! A photo before we wrap up for the day!

The biggest achievement on that day for me is to climb all the way up 272 steps with the devotees. In my heart I really felt the honor to shout out 'I made it!' as loud as I can but that will be pretty odd for me to do so... haha...! :D


-PEACE-

For more photos of the festival, do click here!