Thaipusam Penang Malaysia
First day Thaipusam, breaking the coconuts
Few festivals in Asia are so colourful as the Thaipusam. It's a festival usually held in January of February, in the month of Thai.
Thaipusam is for the Indians the time to carry out acts of penance in fulfillment of vows made to the deity, Lord Muruga.
In Malaysia there are two main places you can enjoy this festival: Kuala Lumpur and Penang. As Penang is easier to reach for me, I usually visit Penang.
There are two days. It all starts with Lord Muruga leaving the temple in Georgetown for his journey of about 10km to the Waterfall Temple. Traditionally coconuts will be broken when the chariot of Lord Muruga arrives. Many devotees offer free drinks (milk tea, white coffee, water etc) and food along the road.
One of the interesting things at the first day is the money changers dancing in the streets. They weare peacock feathers and there's music. It's really cool.
On this page you can find a series of photos of the first day including the moment Lord Muruga's journey starts
The second day is the most visited day. In Kuala Lumpur in the Batu Caves 300.000 people come to visit. Penang is less busy but you can still walk on the heads (so to say) in the afternoon.
The second day is the day of penance. You will see devotees, mainly Indian, but there's also Chinese and sometimes even a white guy.
Devotees puts needles through the tongue and forehead, spears of different sizes through the cheeks, hooks in the back, and other things. It sounds scary and it is scary when you see photos like these !
However, when you are at the site, it is different. I can't explain it, some friends of me do this every year. I witness it then, and it's really cool.
There's food, fun, dancing, music and most of all, it is peaceful. And no, there's not a drop of blood. I can't explain why not but it has to do with preparation: weeks before the actual festival people start preparing, praying on a daily base, vegetarian food and on the second day in the morning, preparation at the starting point. The they get the blessing and the journey starts. It's one of the most fantastic things I have ever experienced.
There's more about photos about Thaipusam in Malaysia here
I can only say this... if you come to Malaysia (Phuket in Thailand and Singapore also have this festival), come in this period of the year. The festival is truly something special, spectacular, fantastic, beautiful etc etc... and most of all... very peaceful.