Photographer's Note

THAIPUSAM is an annual Hindu festival which draws the largest gathering in multi-racial Malaysia - nearly a million people.
For Hindus, Thaipusam is a day of atonement for sins. On this auspicious day, the image of Lord Subramaniam, youngest son of the mighty Shiva - the most awesome God of the Hindu pantheon, is placed on a silver chariot and taken around in a grand procession to the accompaniment of instrumental music.
Several hundred devotees spear their cheeks with long, shiny steel rods - often a metre long - and pierce their chests and backs with small, hook-like needles in penance.
Kavadis are carried in fulfilment of vows and pledges taken in devotion to Lord Subramaniam. Kavadis are semicircular steel frames with bars for support on the shoulders, decorated with flowers and peacock feathers. Other devotees walk in sandals embedded with iron nails or stick small spears made of silver through their cheeks, tongues and bodies. However, there appears to be no physical pain encountered through these processes!
These kavadi bearers are first put into a trance before sharp skewers are thrust into their tongues through the cheeks. Then hooks and spears are pierced on parts their bodies. Sometimes strings are attached to the kavadi from the hooks. Offerings of fruit, milk and syrup are placed on each kavadi and the kavadi goes on the shoulder or head of the kavadi bearer.

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Additional Photos by Kris Verhoeven (verswe) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 61 W: 3 N: 1206] (7330)
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