Photo Essay: Beyond the piercings of Thaipusam

Singapore put on a show of colourful force for this year’s Thaipusam with more than 10,000 festivalgoers turning out for the annual homage to the gods.

Tourists and locals flocked to Sri Srinivasa Temple in Little India in the small hours and then followed the morning procession through the city centre and past onlookers on their way to work to the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple on Tank Road.

About 300 Hindus here in Singapore carried Kavadis, the beautifully intricate structures adorned in peacock feathers and colourful regalia. But the Kavadis beauty comes with pain. Hundreds of spikes pierced into the skin of the wearer make the long walk carrying the Kavadi a penance of pain. 

As always, the Kavadi-bearers were the focus for tourist and local lensmen and women in the morning. But the festival was so much more.

Eszter Papp was at the festival before dawn to capture the full atmosphere of one of Singapore’s more visceral holy celebrations.

Thaipusam commemorates the day when the goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Murugan a lance to slay evil demons. For weeks before the festival devotees purge themselves of mental and physical vices and impurities, with daily prayers, abstinence from sex, a vigilant vegetarian diet and also a penchant for shaving their heads a sign of worship. 

In Singapore, thousands bearing gifts for the diety carried pots of milk and coconuts, snaked their way along a barricaded route through the heart of the city.

While in excess of a million Tamil Hindus throughout Malaysia took part in the festival, other mass celebrations were held in India and other Asian countries where Tamil communities thrive.

Photos: Eszter Papp

See Also: 

Photo Essay: Diverse, record-breaking attendance at 6th Pink Dot

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