- Title: MALAYSIA: Hindu devotees celebrate the holy festival of Thaipusam
- Date: 20th January 2011
- Summary: GIRL CHANTING
- Embargoed: 4th February 2011 12:00
- Location: Malaysia, Malaysia
- Country: Malaysia
- Topics: Quirky,Religion
- Reuters ID: LVA5Z045OU0S7MGIAI0ZXUA5F1T0
- Aspect Ratio:
- Story Text: At dawn, thousands of devotees cleanse their bodies at the riverside on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, preparing to perform a thanksgiving ritual for Lord Murugan, the Hindu god of war and fertility.
The Thaipusam festival fell on January 20 this year and originated from the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Observed by people from different ethnic backgrounds, the festival reflects a growing faith in the Hindu god's power to bless devotees with wishes ranging from curing serious illnesses to achieving top marks in class.
Ravindran Veerapan's uncle has been carrying the kavadi, or wooden floats, for three straight years in the hope of reaching a ripe old age.
"My uncle does the prayers every year, non-stop, because he's praying for a long life," said Ravindran as he watched his uncle fall into trance.
An ornate kavadi could weigh up to 40 kg (88.2 pounds) and up to four metres (13.1 feet) high.
The kavadi carrier not only has to withstand the weight of the floats, but also has to undergo strict rituals, as all devotees are required to fast and abstain from sex for 48 days.
Some devotees pierced their bodies with hooks to drag the cart of the god, while others pierced silver spear-like needles through their cheeks or tongues.
As a general rule, the bigger the request to the god, the more difficult the ritual offerings become.
Women devotees, clad in yellow or orange, balanced pots of milk on their heads to be poured over the statue of Lord Murugan after they ascend the 272 steps to the Batu caves temple.
Non-devotees were also there, dancing with the crowds and basking in the atmosphere.
"I like the colour, I like the smell and the attitude of most people - they are very friendly. I like very much the music and the drums and the trance and all of that. It's really a nice festival because in Europe we don't have so many colours as here, so I really enjoy here. I think it's really, really nice," said Portuguese tourist Rui Fonseca.
"The look is so dramatic. To some extent I feel...some of them scare me a bit, but that's the beauty of the whole thing," first-time visitor, Malaysian Shuhada Hasim said.
This year more than one million people are expected to flock to the limestone temple of Lord Murugan in Malaysia.
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