Brits call it “holidays” and North Americans call it “vacation.” Whatever the hell you call it – you probably love it and so does your body for its well-earnt rest, as does your soaring excitement levels (but I’m not so sure about your bank account).
Some people like to kick back and relax on a sunny resort. Others like to have a jolly good piss-up. The more refined folk like to sightsee and read up on the history of the country that they are visiting.
My friends and I….we chose to watch people put themselves through immense physical pain, which generally included masses of people choosing to stab sharp blades through their face.
Classy bunch we are!
I took loads of horrendous and interesting photos of this. Then forgot to upload them to my computer. Then I broke my camera in Singapore. 🙁 Thankfully, I have friends who went and I took some cheeky photos on my phone.
Edit; this became a recurring theme over the years. I’m the worst photographer and travel blogger ever!
So why do the men and women of Kuala Lumpur (those of Indian heritage) decide to every year, put themselves through so much torture and torment? You might have guessed it – religion!
Origins Of The Thaipusam Hindu Festival
Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated by the Tamil community every year, but oddly enough it is not recognised in India as an actual event. Malaysia is made up of a melting pot of races, many being of Indian heritage – and these guys decide to steal the show during Thaipusam in the most eye-catching way.
Thousands of devotees flock to the Batu Caves, to pay tribute to an old battle against the Asura forces, apparently aided by praying to the God “Shiva,” who flew down and kicked some serious arse or something. One guy told me the pain they experienced was to keep out evil souls that still linger around and threaten the Tamil community.
But you don’t really care about all that history stuff, do you? You just want to see people with blades through their face and backs pouring of blood, don’t you? Sickos!
Day number one of two at Batu caves provided an infectious, enthusiastic and exciting environment. Girls queued up for impressive body art and performed lovely Tamil dance rituals. Guys did what we do best – stuffed our faces with loads of food. (Everything is vegetarian during this event). I did however, return to my hostel feeling underwhelmed – as I wanted to see more crazy shit!
The 4am show however, did not fail to meet up to my expectations – and I felt like I was part of a complete different universe! Before I knew it, guys and girls with only one blade through their cheeks were becoming soft core to me. My unquenchable curiosity was as thirsty as ever – but my shock factor was becoming alarmingly strong. And I craved craziness.
I got what I wanted. Thousands upon thousands of the Tamil community strutted up to the long walk up to Batu Caves with multiple sharp objects through their face. Some guys had hundreds of piercings all over their back, with attached chains.
The other end of the chains were attached to mini sculptures which mimicked the temple that was transported to Batu from Kuala Lumpur central.
Blood cascaded down their backs, blades through their face, heavy memorials rested on their head as they climbed the 272 steps of Batu caves. What made this event even more outrageously unbelievable was that the Tamil folk never looked in distress. They looked in a meditative state and at times they would squeal and roll round on the floor as to suggest that they were possessed by demons.
At the top of the stairs, the blades are removed and the individual acts like something out of a scene from “The Exorcist.” I watched one guy salivate, make evil cat noises, have a fit and then scream as his blades were removed from his face. Seconds later he came over to me and said in his distinctive Indian/English voice; “Thank you for coming to our festival, Sir. It’s a great pleasure to have you here.”
I’m not showing off or anything here, but the videos that are currently on Youtube for this event are pale in comparison to what I witnessed.
I’m not a religious man myself and I personally believe that it’s done more harm than good. The subject of religion is actually a really touchy one for me right now, in my personal life so maybe I will have a different view about it when I’m not too emotionally attached.
Thaipusam certainly is a “go hard, or go home” kind of event and I’m happy that I experienced this wild and fascinating festival.
What is the craziest religious festival that you have went to? Have you ever been to Thaipusam?