Thursday, January 31, 2008



My flicker friends and I went to Batu Caves to Shoot the Thaipusam festival.

It was my first time. I was nervous. I did not know what to expect or feel about it. From all the gory pictures I 've seen, I was not sure it I could take it.

I left my house at 4.3Oam. Johan came to picK me up. We had to get there early in order to get parking. In our car also was Shafina, Ali and Hesus. We were to we Kaz. Kervin visithra at McD'S Tawakal.

When arrived, the festival was already in full swing. The crowd was manageable with not too many people. People carrying Kavadi's accompanied by beatings of drums & music was already making their way to the caves . It was an overwhelming experience. I felt a very strong presence as I approached closer to the Kavadis. The music makes you want to dance along will them. The kavadi barriers were in a trance and looked like they were possessed by something evil. The crowd wag cheering them on encouraging them to make their difficult journey up the 200 over Steps and into the caves.


I had to step back once in a while to get Some fresh air. The 'force' was too over powering for me.
We made our way to the river To witness the spiritual cleansing. There were some who bathed in the river while most bathed under the showers installed on the banks. Many had already shaved their heads bald before hand. Nearby prayers were on going, music was playing, people were chanting.


As the Sun came up, the activities heightened. There were stalls Set up for devotees to shave their heads completely bald. Young children and babies were not exempted.


We made our way further into the crowd. Piercings were in progress. I watched in awe,ShocK and disbelief. First they go into a trance. I priest assists them by chanting a prayer. Family members and friends also chant giving support and encouragement. As soon as the devotees are in a trance the priest quickly begin the piercing. I witnessed a woman's tongue being ,a man's cheek being scewered, and people's back being filled with hooks dangled with lime, oranges, little pots of milk and even roses.



What I noticed was four distinctive categories of devotees.

One; carries the Kavadi. It is said to be almost 17kg in weight. Together with piercings on the cheeks by a veil( a spear), they have to bear the burden all the way up the steps of Batu cave. Every few Seconds or so the devotee will take a break by sitting down on a stool brought along by a family member. It was a team effort. Family members would follow him all the way up the caves chanting veil! Veil! This chant I believe Keeps him in the trance.


The Second group I noticed was the devotees had large hooks pierced on their backS. Attached to these hooks were long ropes where a friend or family member hold as reigns. It Seems that devotees of this category appears to have animal like gestures when in a trance. They would roar, lick their lips and behave like an animal. This category Seems the most aggresive and they can be quite violent.

Thaipusam IMG_2192IMG_2238

The third one was the ones with piercings on their backs attached to oranges, limes, apples, flowers, Bells, and very small pots of milk.

IMG_2319 IMG_2321 IMG_2453

The last Category was the most simple form where they would just carry a pot of milk or their shoulders. This is widely practiced by young children, women and the elderly .

IMG_2201 IMG_2478IMG_2469IMG_2435

They all make their difficult journey up the steps of Batu Caves. And I made it up there with them too.


It was a long hot day with many mixed emotions. I was happy to be a part of this very sacred festival and I have no regrets being there.

No comments: