People do some interesting things in the name of religion.  (As an anthropologist-in-training, I’m not allowed to call these things “crazy.”)

Thaipusam is a Tamil Hindu festival that is banned in India, but still practiced in Singapore and Malaysia.  Supposedly, the origins of Thaipusam relate to a myth in which the goddess Parvathi gave a lance to her son Murugan, who then vanquished three demons, thereby becoming the destroyer of all evil.  During Thaipusam, devotees give thanks/penance to Murugan by making offerings of milk or honey.  However, they may also pierce their cheeks or tongues with metal skewers several feet in length, which are said to represent Muruga’s lance. Still others bear a kavadi, a wooden or metal shrine that is attached to the body with hooks, chains, and needles. (This is a simplified version, as there are other rituals and prayers involved with these actions.)

What are you looking at?

In Singapore, participants gather at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to assemble their offerings and/or kavadis and then walk for four kilometers to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Siak Road.


You thought the cheek piercing was intense? Try walking 4 km with his kavadi. (The picture isn't clear, but he's pulling the wooden kavadi, which is somehow attached to him via piercings.)

Thaipusam is celebrated during the Tamil month of Thai, which coincides with January or February, on the day  the star Pusam appears.  For 2011, it will be this Thursday, January 20th.  So, if you’re in Singapore, go check it out!  And if you’re not, here’s a 30-second video of scenes from last year:

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6 Responses to Thaipusam

  1. floramoreno says:

    I think I’m going this year (it’s my first Thaipusam). Where do you recommend would be the best area to get good photos?


    • gowiththeebb says:

      Hi Flora,

      I would start at the Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India, which is where everything starts and the kavadis are assembled. When you get done wandering around there, you can stand along Serangoon Rd outside and watch the procession. They have barricades set up for the procession and you can stand behind them to watch and take photos. Hope that helps!

  2. kierstens says:

    Ah it’s so painful just to LOOK at those pictures!!!

  3. bookjunkie says:

    I come from a Hindu family, but I still can’t bear to look at the piercings. As a child I used to watch the procession, but couldn’t bear to look at the very major piercings where the kavadi was carried.

    • gowiththeebb says:

      I agree with you and Kiersten that it’s painful to look at. I hope the pics/video weren’t too graphic for you!

      • bookjunkie says:

        to be honest I didn’t dare look at the video but the first image was very graphic. But it’s one authentic part of Singapore and I hope that it’s not squashed by the authorities will all the new regulations. Otherwise we would have to head to Batu Caves in KL for the last remaining ceremony.

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