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.)
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.
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: