India is a land of festivals, do you know why? It is the home for people of various religions and hence you have festivals almost every day of the year. These festivals reflect their beliefs and devotion as they take the extra mile to show it, while most of the festivals are about prayers, good food, and family time. However, there are some which are intense and extreme. One such festival is Thaipoosam, when devotees pierce their bodies, attach heavy objects with hooks, and carry them to observe the festival. Read below to know why and how they go through this without complaining one bit!
Significance of Thaipoosam
The association is more of crowded temples, Kavadi procession, body piercing, and hair tonsure for those of you who know about this festival. But do you know the significance of this event? The term Thaipusam comes from two words, Thai which is the Tamil month from January to February and the word Pusam means bright star. This festival usually falls between the mid of January to the mid of February every year. It is a victory celebration to mark the defeat of the evil demon King Soorapadman by Lord Murugan.
As per legend, Lord Shiva grants a wish to Soorapadman that only Shiva’s manifestation can only kill him. This wish made the demon king believe he was invincible and started to trouble all the Devas. So the Devas went to Lord Shiva and sought his help to kill Soorapadman. Lord Murugan, the son of Shiva, gets a mighty spear or Vel as a gift using which he defeated the demon. So to celebrate the victory of good over evil, Thaipoosam festival started.
Cut to the present; people worship Lord Murugan for killing the ‘daily demons’ like illnesses and other worries. Believers in this deity also offerseek prayers and seek blessings for their future endeavors. They also seek forgiveness for any sins or mistakes they have committed.
Kavadi Aattam is one of the main events performed during the Thaipoosam. The Kavadi Aattam or Kavadi is a dance offering to Lord Murugan by devotees. The Kavadi, which means ‘carrying weight on shoulders’, is a decorated semicircular structure with a wooden rod used to carry on the shoulders. The devotees carry the Kavadi and walk barefoot to reach the temple. Along the way, other worshippers offer things like fruits, flowers, milk, etc.
Men and women usually perform the Kavadi Aattam and they carry the Kavadi decorated in flowers, peacock feathers, and colourful clothes. The preparation for this starts well before the festival, where the Kavadis (those who carry the burden) consume only Satvik food and avoid drinking. They also tonsure their head, sometimes fast, and keep their body clean. They also perform ceremonies before taking the Kavadi and constantly think of God and do various devotional acts. There is a belief that by doing this, the karmic debts will be cleared off. Those who are unable to carry the Kavadi, they walk barefoot carrying a pot of milk.
Body piercings to please the Lord
This festival is celebrated every year to commemorate the victory of good. As per stories, Lord Murugan was gifted with a spear to destroy the demon king. When Lord Murugan answers the prayers of believers or fulfils their wishes, they pierce their bodies as gratitude. Some do it to please God and seek blessings. The worshippers pierce their tongue, cheeks, skin, etc. with skewers or hooks. Usually, cheek and tongue piercing are symbolic of pleasing the Lord. Many go to the extreme of carrying the Kavadi by hammering hooks into their body and attaching and pulling it. The most striking aspect of this ritual is that the devotees who get pierced bodies seem to feel no pain and look calm and composed! This sight is not for those with a weak heart.
Celebrations in Temples
Many temples in Tamil Nadu perform this festival with great devotion and fanfare. Six main temples, which are the abodes of Lord Murugan, are important venues for this festival. It is observed with grandeur in these six temples. Natives of these temples and surrounding areas visit them with strict preparations. People who want to offer gratitude, walk from their homes to these temples barefoot. Those who do not want to go through the extreme body piercings simply take the procession by observing fasting. The elderly who cannot fast just offer their prayers and participate in the prayers and other events conducted by the temples.
The holy festival of Thaipusam is celebrated worldwide by people of Tamil origin as a thanksgiving to the Lord. While the way of celebrations may vary, the essence remains the same – sacrifice with body piercings and religious practices to show gratitude. It is one of the most unusual festivals in India, which is spiritual for the believers, enthralling and mystical for the others. Want to experience this yourself? Visit any of the temples in Tamil Nadu to get the vibe.