Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tips on Shooting Thaipusam at Batu Caves


A trio of dancers bearing light weight decorated kavadis, thaipusam, selangor

Thaipusam is a huge celebration for Hindus in Malaysia and as a photographer I must advocate that any photographer should at least experience it hands on and conduct a shoot at least once in their lifetime. There are so many things happening during the festival and so many millions of people gathering here that it could well overwhelm even the most steadfast photographers. Thankfully the Government this year had decided after years of empty promises to allow for Thaipusam to be extended as a public holiday for Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, no doubt to appease the Indian sentiment which had been badly bruised lately.

Some of the highlights to look out for during the week long celebrations which a first timer there should look out for are:

(a) The morning preparations as the family members and friends gather for prayers
(b) The cleansing ceremony by the side of the river where devotees bathe themselves
(c) Shaving of the hair and face of the kavadi bearers
(d) The priests offering blessings to the kavadi bearer and group
(e) The inducement of a trance into the kavadi bearer
(f) The ritual piercing of the entranced individual
(g) The fastening of the kavadi onto the devotee
(h) Women carrying milk containers
(i) Music groups accompanying the kavadi bearers
(j) The kavadi procession making its way to the temple
(k) Climbing the steps up to Batu Caves
(l) Entering the temple
(m) Other entranced individuals in their respective deities
(n) Couples carrying their babies on sugarcane poles for blessing
(o) The various food and religious paraphernalia stores set up


A devotee receives a ritual shave before the ceremony, thaipusam, selangor

There are several tips to observe during the entire photoshoot:

(1) Be careful of your gear either from being snatched or accidentally damaged as the crowd there are large and you'll face a tight squeeze wherever you go to
(2) Come early and park father down away from the temple or use public transport to avoid headaches as most major roads are closed
(3) If you are not too inclined to push it with the crowd go to the days before or after the main celebrations as the devotees still carry out the festival over a weeks time
(4) If you're shooting in groups make sure to agree on meetup points as its easy to get separated
(5) Take care when shooting as not to disturb or disrupt the devotees, don't be too intrusive
(6) A point and shoot may be needed as a backup as sometimes you wish for angles that will be hard for SLR due to the crowd and also limited space
(7) Bring water along as its going to get hot and sweaty
(8) Listen to instructions to the crowd control people and let them have the right of way, don't provoke or challenge them
(9) Bring lots of memory and batteries, it'll be a day long event and there are a lot of subjects to shoot
(10) It might be easier to follow the same kavadi group as you get to cover the entire ritual
(11) Try to avoid getting squeezed when reaching the top of Batu Caves, a lot of people will be cramped in and you may get stuck while trying to enter or exit


A large skewer tipped with a lime adorns a face of a kavadi bearer, thaipusam, selangor


A woman bearing a mouth skewer in a trance, thaipusam, selangor


Devotees possessed by the Hanuman deity experiences a feverous state of possession and trance bearing all the characteristic of the wild deity he represents, thaipusam, selangor


Devotees making way along the parade route to the temple, thaipusam, selangor


A devotee in a trance while resting on a chair of nails showers blessings to the crowd, thaipusam, selangor


A kavadi bearer is always never alone but supported throughout his spiritual journey by friends and family, here a crowd dressed in matching colours accompanies the devotee with music, chants and songs, thaipusam, selangor


A child looks on as his father prepares to bear the heavy kavadi, thaipusam, selangor


A devotee in a trance collapses while his fellow devotees comforts him, thaipusam, selangor


Extreme bodily skewering and piercing leaves no pain to the person in trance, thaipusam, selangor


The crowded stairs leading to the temple, thaipusam, selangor


A girl bears a milk carrier, thaipusam, selangor


Taking a rest on his way to the temple, thaipusam, selangor


Large crowds take up most of the space of the staircase, thaipusam, selangor


Numbers on the steps remind how much more you have to climb to reach the top, thaipusam, selangor


Kavadi bearer near the entrance to the temple. thaipusam, selangor


The crowded interior of the temple grounds, thaipusam, selangor


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IR student said...

your blog is super cool!
i'm doing a field work on this event...
can u email me on the event's schedule?
i mean from what time to what time?
my email:

P.S actually i got a lot of thing to ask you about this event

Jack said...

Are u going to batu caves this thaipusam?

Kervin said...

Yes I will be there with friends as I am every year