This morning at 5.30am, a friend (and fellow photographer) and I set out for this year’s Thaipusam Festival at Batu Caves on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. It was my first time. My companion had been before and knew the ropes. As we arrived the sight, smell and noise were something to behold. And then we got closer.
This annual Hindu festival honours Lord Murugan, the God of War. The Tamil community celebrate in India, Malaysia, Singapore and across the globe.
Thaipusam is best known in the West as the festival where devotees volunteer to pierce their faces, cheeks, tongues and bodies with steel skewers and hooks. Participants, worked into a frenzy during the celebration claim that they can’t feel the pain and hardly any blood is shed!
Although extreme piercings are optional it certainly seemed most were willing to give it a go. Many worshippers simply carry pots of milk on their heads during the procession. With over a million participants expected at this annual event here in Malaysia, there could be trouble. However, the festival has a reputation for being a peaceful gathering and the atmosphere I felt this morning was simply one of celebration and religious commitment.
It’s been a while since I have been in the thick of an event such as this and even though my shoe caught on fire and my camera was hit by the beating stick of a drummer, like the pierced worshippers, I embraced every minute. Here are some of my shots from this weekend’s amazing and slightly insane festival…