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:
Yes, I am still alive. And despite the fact that I have not written an entry in over two months, I do still plan to keep this blog alive. (Can you smell the New Year’s Resolution?) There are two main reasons I haven’t been posting as frequently. First, the combination of grad school and a two-day/week internship was kicking my butt for awhile. Second, my life in London does not seem as interesting as my life was in Singapore/Asia.
I don’t run into celebrities. I don’t see menus advertising “a pocket of treasures” or people dressed like clams. No one tells me that I “have a lucky forehead.” No one asks me to marry them. (Link forthcoming.) And unlike Kate Middleton, I won’t be marrying a British Prince this year, so I might have to rethink my thoughts on marrying a Malay prince. My eating expeditions involve scones and other items less exotic than durians and fish-head curry. And finally, I can’t go to hell for $1. (The tube costs at least $3!)
However, I am nevertheless building up signs and stories from life on this side of the pond. (Not to mention the back-log I still have from travels around SE Asia.) So, I hereby resolve to start posting more regularly (while not dropping out of grad school or my internship). Because as a sign from Mustafa Center (Singapore’s 24-hour mall) declares, “You were not made to dig in the dirt with chickens, but to soar the clouds with the wings of an Eagle.”