Thaipusam is a Hindu festival celebrated across the world. It is observed by people of the Tamil community both within and outside Malaysia besides Deepavali.
Thaipusam, which is known as Thaipoosam usually comes during the months of January or February. This is during the full moon month of Thai of the Tamil calendar. Besides Malaysia, countries like India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Mauritius are known to celebrate Thaipusam as well. In fact, some countries observe Thaipusam as a national public holiday.
Thaipusam gets its name from the month of Thai and the star of Pusam. This refers to the fact that the Pusam star is at this time being at its peak point. It is celebrated to commemorate the time when Murugan got the Vel spear from Parvati in order to win the Soorapadman demon. In some stories, it is said to be the birthday of Murugan.
In Malaysia, Thaipusam is celebrated in large scales across the country, particularly in Batu Caves. Each year, more than a million Hindu devotees will come to Batu Caves to celebrate this festival. As it is held in dedication to Lord Murugan, the youngest son of Shiva, the temples devoted to him are thronged with Hindus from all walks of life.
Among the temples with a lot of people during Thaipusam includes the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Batu Caves, the Balathandayuthapani Temple in Penang known as the Waterfall Hill Temple, the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple in Ipoh, Perak and the Sungai Petani Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple, Kedah.
What you would see at these temples are people who are possibly in trance and men who have shaved their heads. Even women have been known to shaved their heads as well in paying penance to Lord Murugan. Besides that, some pierce their skins, tongue and cheeks too while others have hooks on their bodies while carrying the Kavadi.