Saturday, February 24, 2007

Thaipusam at Batu Caves 2007 Part 2


The Priest giving his blessings to a devotee with prayers and offerings as well as a dab of ash onto the forehead of the woman.

The start of the journey for the devotees was not only this single day. A long fast with restricted diets and prohibitions such as only sleeping on the floor near the altar room provides a spiritual cleaning long before they even set foot at Batu Caves. All these lead these devout men and women for their trials today.


The throng of devotees await their turn for receiving the priest's blessings or to be invoked into a trance as they make their way from the starting area to the central temple.

Family and friends all come in support of the devotee carrying the kavadi for this is not a task a lone person can carry out without support, strenghtening the ties and bonds of all those here today, either directly involved or as supporting team members. From the youngest to the eldest, all family members are not excluded.


Closeup of one of the devotees.

The very air reveberates with the chants of the faithful, the air full of incense and scent of the thousands of people gathered. An electric and otherworldly feel can be felt by anyone present here. It was a sight to see the devotees suddenly bursting out in screams and howls the very moment the priest blowed holy ash onto them or pressed some of it onto their forehead. Most had to be restrained by their fellow compatriots as they violently contort as they are possessed. All around the chants grew louder with 'vel, vel' inciting and giving strength to the kavadi bearers for their upcoming trials.


A fellow devotee falls into a trance as the priest gave the blessing and applied the blessed ash onto him signaling the begining of a possession.

Truly it seems that the devotees now were beyond themselves, screeching and shouting yet composed and ready for the next hurdle. The devotees had different personalities depending on the diety possesing them. i noticed there were several types, the normal kavadi bearers who carried the huge loads were calm and composed as they were strapped into the harness and the hooks applied onto their flesh.


Devotee giving offerings and blessing to a makeshift altar near the kavadi harness.

Others who were not bearing kavadis still exhibited different properties, some bore huge wooden clubs which I was told were the weapons favoured by Hamunan the Monkey God and were ringed with garlands of flowers. Others were slowly hooked with fruits or flowers attached to large hooks onto their bare skins. In their tranced state, they offered their tongues which were piered with skewers by the priests. And all the time there was no sign of blood nor and semblence of pain exhibited by the devotees.


A kid holding the tongue skewer to be used by his father as he carries his kavadi.

The session took quite some time as each of the entourage were given prayers and the kavadi bearers were strapped in. Some broke out in dance and the crowd cheered on, others were sitting still while the final preparations were made. All the while musicians spotting horns, trumpets, drums and cymbals blasted tunes to add to the merriment and atmosphere all about.


The Priest chanting prayers.


Several of the children present at the festival.


A kavadi bearer prepares to be fastened to the harness he will bear up to Batu Caves.


Women holding pots of milk as offerings.


A father doing penance giving his daughter a blessing.


Devotees in a trance preparing themselves to have hooks inserted to their body.

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