Thaipusam is the Hindu Festival celebrated on the day of full moon during Thai, the Tamil month of January/February. It is celebrated in the main by Tamils and brings the whole community together. I could go on to tell you exactly what they are celebrating and why and how etc. But I am wholly unqualified and would just be copy and pasting from various websites which I believe is known as plagiarism (so I shan't be doing that). There are numerous links to find the information out there so you can find out yourselves what leads to this magnificent celebration of body and soul.
This is the official website of the two temples used to host this extraordinary event. I would say if you want a reliable source of information (especially surrounding the Singaporean festival) then this would be it. There was even an advert for it inside the Temple itself.
What I offer here is just reflection on what I saw, heard and smelt during the day. I should explain to the uninitiated (as I pretty much was), the day involves the men and women of the faith carrying 'Kavadi' over what turned out to be a pretty long walk between two temples. It is a sign of their devotion and what a sign it is. Having walked the course from start to finish it is a wonder anyone makes it, it is very long (and very hot, yesterday was sunny and easily in the 30s). But they all do. I didn't see one casualty the whole time. This is obviously down to their faith. But also a lot of help comes from the massive entourage that some of these guys have. Family and friends chanting, talking, singing and in some cases arguing with and shouting their charges to the finish. There are various forms of Kavadi and basically I think it is a case of 'more pain, more gain' (from God).
They can range from this.
To something like this.
Pulling one of these!
These guys are seriously devoted and the previous example was by no means the exception and most likely the rule. Probably the most well know image of the Thaipusam and certainly the one I had seen on various NatGeo programs was along the lines of this.
Again, by no means the exception. A truly amazing sight. Colourful, noisy, incense burning and the smell of food cooking on the side of the road through Little India and down the Serangoon Road. The ceremony was entirely public and these guys wanted everyone to see what they were doing. Possibly a little intimidating at first due to the nature of what they are doing to their bodies this turned out to be one of the friendliest festivals I've been to. I think as a Westerner with no clue about their faith my natural instinct is that anyone do this to themselves has to be working on testosterone and therefore they and there entourage should not be approached. Nothing could have been further from the truth. A very warm, friendly, family day from babies in buggies to elderly family members being wheeled down the road in their wheelchairs. The aroma of food, of course, hung in the air. Free food and water were handed out along the route to both participants and just the lazy commoners (like myself). I even felt guilty about accepting it. Very persuasive these Indians though, so it didn't last long (hey, it's food, what am I going to do??). And very nice (and needed) it was too.
The route soon became congested with all and sundry bustling to get into the temple and then all of a sudden through the drum banging, ushering and shouting we were in. And we were greeted by the extraordinary sight of one of the Kadavi bearers having finished his walk, dancing in front of everyone before being led away to be 'dismantled'!