Thaipusam festival, Malaysia

Photo © Tajai June

Cages of spikes, cheeks and tongues skewered by tridents, and sharp hooks dug into fleshy bits. It sounds more like a scene from hell than a spiritual celebration. The popular Hindu festival of Thaipusam, however, sees devotees go on a gruesome-looking body-piercing spree in the name of their beliefs.

The festival marks the day when Hindu deity Murugan received a lance with which to slay three demons. The participants subject themselves to the apparently masochistic acts in gratitude for answered prayers. Most striking of all are the vel kavadi wearers, who don a cage of spikes. In theory, their trance-like state saves them from feeling any pain.

The event centres on Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur. It takes place at full moon in the Tamil month of Thai. In 2010 the date is likely to be January 30th.

Written by - Photo by Tajai / June

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