EXPERIENCING THAIPUSAM 2012 IN PENANG

*WARNING : Some photos contain SELF-MORTIFICATION BY PIERCING.ย  The volume of photos in this post may be overwhelming. That’s how I define something in epic proportion, LOL!!! ๐Ÿ˜›

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Seriously, how deep is your faith?

I am astronomically far from being religious but I certainly keep a constant communication with my Creator and Savior. My family and I don’t go to Catholic masses that often. I have not read the entire Holy Bible neither I am familiar with all the Catholic Saints. Not that I am proud of it but logically, there’s no use of being a hypocrite. Now, thisย  isn’t about our own faith nor our own religion. However, a reflection of one’s own is unavoidable particularly when you witness someone else’s expression of faith.

They crushed and smashed countless coconuts on the ground where the silver chariot of Hindu God, Murugan passed by a day prior to Thaipusam. The same scene was noticed in front of their Hindu temples at Thaipusam festival itself.

I missed it last year so I didn’t pass the chance to experience Thaipusam this year. It’s an annual festival celebrated by the Hindus here in Penang, Malaysia every last week of January or the first week of February. This year, it fell on dates Feb.6,7, and 8. The second day (Feb.7,2012) was declared public Holiday in Malaysia (read: And Feb 6 which was a Monday was also a holiday for the Muslim’s Prophet Mohammad’s Birthday, thus we got a loooong weekend again!).

There’s no excuse for me not to attend or at least witness for a few hours this remarkable religious event. However, Tina decided to spend the day at home to rest with Gabby; luckily, my mom who’s on her second month of vacation here in Penang (she applied for another month of Visa extension) was so willing to tag along with me to experience Thaipusam.

Peacock feathers among Hindus, I read somewhere they supposed to symbolize protection from harm and snakes. Can someone confirm?

My mom and I took a pre-arranged taxi cab (read : I called the driver few days prior) from our place in Butterworth that picked us up at 6 in the morning to Jetty where we had 12minute-ferry ride to Jetty in George Town, Pulau Pinang. From there, Thaipusam-Shuttle buses brought us to what supposed to be the location of the Hindu festival.

Then a funny thing happened to us. This was because we followed “Spongebob!” ๐Ÿ˜›

Just before alighting the bus, Mamy asked me if I know the place. I told her that I just read it’s held every year at Waterfall Road. The almost clueless me told my mom to just follow pilgrims en route to the site. Logical, eh?ย  We saw one Indian family, barefooted who walked with a Spongebob balloon. We followed the balloon!ย  I saw a familiar looking hospital and there was no sight of a hill, neither a Hindu Temple nor the Thaipusam festival itself. The Indian family that we thought will lead us to the site went directly to their car that was parked at a gasoline station. Toinks!!! ๐Ÿ˜€ Then we concluded, they’re done with their devotion and we’re kind of lost at that moment!

My mom saw a Chinese lady at the bus stop who gave us instructions of where to go.ย  And after seeing a lengthy stretch of road shut to traffic and people in sarees walking barefooted, we knew we’re already on the right track.ย  So we walked, walked and walked until we reached the foot of the hill at Waterfall Road.

It was still dark at nearly 7 in the morning. Didn't I tell you that sun rises in Malaysia later than you think?

The presence of some people handing free cups of coffee which we didn’t sample, those many temporary stalls selling vegetarian food, commercially branded fresh milk in tetra packs (Hindus put milk in brass and silver pots and used it as offering to Murugan), souvenir items and a lot more made the atmosphere so alive and joyous.

But the day wasn’t meant for merry-making but more so for expression of faith, devotion and thanksgiving.

Malaysian Hindus proudly wore clean shaven heads smeared with sandalwood paste. This is one expression of their spiritual belief a Tamil family shares.

At few minutes past 7 in the morning, there’s already a build up of volume of faithfuls and Indian pilgrims queued patiently just to worship their deity Murugan.

A parade of various colors of sarees amidst the yellow and saffron clad devotees was a feast to the eyes. But frankly, as my eyes were delighted to their gears, my nose didn’t like the aroma of mixed coconuts smashed on the grounds with smell of fresh milk; it hit my olfaction and was wafted as curdled milk-like smell and it was definitely a- no-good-for-me; Sorry!ย  Nonetheless, I cannot resist the picturesque event happening right before my eyes. Kaya deadma na sa amoy!

Fresh milk were either carried in silver or brass pots as offering.

Before devotees climb the hills via flight of stairs, they drop by this Hindu temple and venerate.

A Sea of Faith

People across the life span gathered in troops to celebrate their faith and religion.

An arresting sight of brass and silver milk-pots called PAAL KUDAM.

They carried brass and silver pots of milk over their heads as offerings to Hindu deity, Murugan.

Elders…

Men…

Women…

and even children showed their devotion with pride.

KAVADIS are ornately adorned religious loads carried over their shoulders as offerings to Murugan.

Kavadis and more kavadis…

Didn’t I mention they walked without footwears?

Are these betel leaves?

Do you have any idea what’s on that saffron sling?

Couples who were blessed with offsprings over the past year carried their babies in saffron slings under stalks of sugarcane.

When he grows older, he will understand everything…ย  *i hope*

Thaipusam, therefore is a celebration of Thanksgiving and Penance as well…

Thuderous drum rolls esorted this devotee…

He was one of those who had vels or piercing and…

Drums that accompanied this devotee.

hooks individually attached to his back subcutaneously.ย  Note it was bloodless…

The same man almost caught everyone’s attention for a while when he began to move like a galloping horse that gave a more pull and tension to the hooks at his back. Painful to my eyes!

At this point, I knelt down and clicked my cam and became breathless for a sec.

Like all pilgrims, the man waited his turned, step by step on the stairs towards Murugan.

I saw a few non-looking Indian who professed their Hindu faith too..

Others had lime to weigh down their hooks attached to their back.

Some had miniature milk pots used as weights for their hooks.

I wonder how heavy this Kavadi was.

Peacock feathers were used to decorate theirย  Kavadis.

Imagine if someone accidentally pull or push either ends of that piercings. Call me morbid or paranoid but it surely is painful if your not in trance or at least on anesthesia.

More piercing and kavadis…

While I was busy clicking my cam, my mom was waiting for me at the sloped area still at foot of the hill. She had an engaging conversation with tourists from abroad. The not-so-ordinary-couple whom she conversed with was from Auckland, New Zealand.ย  What made them extraordinary among the many tourist out there (no, my mom did not spent hours talking to all of them, hell no! hahaha!), was the fact that they’re traveling the globe from New Zealand by their own boat. Repeat, they’re traveling the globe from NZ with their own boat docked in Langkawi Island in North of Penang. My mom, who was with us in Auckland, NZ back in 2005 during our 7-week break then, was truly amazed with the uncommon passion of the couple she talked with.

I called my mom after an hour and we decied to leave. I guess we had seen enough.

But en route from Waterfall Road to the main exit road (where we followed Spongebob), we saw some more devotees…

As my mom and I left the site of Thaipusam, we carried in our memories how Hindus worship their God, manifest their religion and practice their faith. Although it’s totally different from ours, nonetheless a common belief in Superior Being makes us all mere mortals and far from being seamless.

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18 thoughts on “EXPERIENCING THAIPUSAM 2012 IN PENANG

  1. ang sakit! haha! i agree that we show faith in our own way. dito nga sa atin may nagpapapako pa sa krus diba? ๐Ÿ™‚

    is this malaysia-wide celebration? i think meron din nito dun sa malapit sa KL. yung may malaking statue.

    1. i think there are only a few states in malaysia that observe thaipusam annually but not country-wide.
      batu caves yun, grace. yes, they hold the biggest and grandest thaipusam event in batu caves.

  2. As i was reading through your post, i couldn’t help but say Aray, and OMG while looking at the pictures. We profess our faith in many many ways, each religion, each denomination. I wonder how we all connect to one and same god but seriously, it’s all in the faith.

  3. grabe my legs were shaking while reading this especially when i saw those calamansi and other things hangging on their body. great post. parang hindi ko kakayaning umakyat dun sa taas.

  4. I remember this from my childhood and I could never seem to be scared of those skewered devotees. Instead, I was so fascinated by how they were so devoted to their faith that they didn’t bleed.

  5. Hi Docgelo! Thanks for sharing the pics from Thaipusam 2012! Amazing! Great photography! It’s like being there where the event was!
    Natutuwa ako sa blog mo kasi first time ko makaencounter ng blog na pareho ng theme ko. Ganda! Ilagay kita sa blogroll ko ha! More power sa blog mo!

  6. After getting amused with your Spongebob misadventure, I found myself grimacing just looking at the succeeding pictures – ouch, that just too painful. I guess I couldn’t be as devoted as them.

    Have fun in Hong Kong Doc Gelo!

  7. nice photos doc especially the man with limes ๐Ÿ˜‰ and the one with hooks, grabe! parang mahal na araw version sa atin, yun penitensya…… I was laughing about you and your mom following the sponge bob balloons hehehe toinks talaga lol…dami rin palang weird people dyan and their beliefs

  8. What an extensive coverage of Thaipusam, I would never have the guts to take the photos of pins especially with the heavy load of limes.

    By taking your Mom on your photographic adventures, you are exposing her to a new world of blogging journal. For me, being outdoors and taking photos are a good stress outlet. I take my new point and shoot camera with me everyday, and during my break time, I walk around the 2 floors and take photos of the downtown area.

    Sort of a diary, it keeps tract of my daily activities.

    I hope to visit her blog in a few…..

  9. I haven’t heard of Thaipusam yet, but I’m glad you made a very detailed coverage with nicely captured photos. I’m not so religious too, but I salute these Hindu devotees. I don’t think I can endure seeing people with hooks on their backs though.. >.< It looks so painful kahit di ko likod yun!

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