We were lucky enough to experience something really outside the box. It was a remarkable festival called Thaipusam. In fact, it was a major highlight of the trip so far, and something that I would hope gets written up in numerous travel magazines. It is one of the major Indian festivals in Singapore and supposedly one of the bigger Thaipusam celebrations in the world.
For those interested in the background of Thaipusam see the wikipedia article here.
For those just interested in the pictures and our description of the one in Singapore see below.
The people were really enthralled with the entire process and it was great to hear Indian music blaring from speakers just a block away from our serviced apartment.
The men shaved their heads and covered themselves in holy ash as you can see above.
So that was basically the night time ritual, with praying and chanting well into the night. Carrie and I headed home just before midnight, ready to see more in the morning. But we really did not know what we were getting ourselves into.
The Thaipusam festival in Singapore begins in Little India and is a procession that starts with ritual there and proceeds by foot to near Clarke Quay, approximately 4km or 2.4 miles along a procession or parade route. That much we knew before seeing the festivities.
What we didn’t know fully was that people were pierced and carried Kavadi’s (human powered floats as seen below) for that entire 4km. They were decorated with various Gods, Peacock feathers, lights, and other accouterments that really shone and shimmered depending the time of day.
The participants were truly remarkable with limes and milk jugs to represent purification and sacrifice pierced into their bodies.
Some participants walked the procession route with nail spiked shoes and were still able to walk up the last flights of stairs into the temple for a final prayer.
Worshippers carried carts behind them, with ropes pierced into their flesh to tug the carts along as seen below.
The really remarkable part of all of this was that there was no blood. See the photo below for just how many piercings one person had, and he was carrying a cart behind. However, he did not seem to be in pain and again, no blood.
Some of the worshipers even had the energy to dance after their walk as you can see below.
Carrie and I spent the better part of a day watching the spectacle of it all, and we basically walked the route backwards so that we could see all the people. Luckily for us we had on tennis shoes and received no piercings prior to our walk, so we managed but we really tired after the heat and wonder of the day. We were very happy to see it all and really excited that this is all part of the adventure of living in a foreign place.
We have plenty more pictures of the day for those that are interested, just email us for more.