Chennai, India: Hundreds of thousands of Hindus across India, Malaysia and other Asian countries with large Hindu devotees celebrated the annual Thaipusam festival on Wednesday, with many piercing their skin with hooks and skewers and walking on hot coals of fire in order to ‘kill Evil Demons’ – an act of devotion to the deity Murugan.
In Hindu mythology, thaipusam marks the day when the goddess Parvathi gave her son Lord Murugan a powerful lance to fight demons. It is observed mainly in countries with a significant ethnic Tamil population, including India, Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore.
Most of Malaysia’s roughly 31 million people are Muslim but it also has ethnic Chinese and around two million ethnic Indians, mostly descendants of labourers brought from India by former colonial ruler Britain.
Thousands of devotees in Chennai, India and the Batu Caves on the outskirts of Malysia capital Kuala Lumpur in the early hours Wednesday, walked barefoot to the respective shrine.
Many carried prayer offerings known as “kavadi” and balanced milk pots on their heads with their hands as they ascended.
Some carried large platforms attached to a harness and decorated with images and idols of Hindu deities.
Others pierced their faces with tridents and rods or hung multiple hooks and chains from their skin in an act of penance.