Hi Ginny.. While I was teaching in Singapore in the early 1970s I went to see the Thaipausum Festival several times. The devotees meditate in the temple for 3 weeks & eat only a diet of milk & bananas. The purpose of the procession is to pay homage to Lord Subramanium, son of Lord Siva. Devotees carry kavadi through the streets. Their faces & bodies are pierced with rods & skewers & lemons hang from fish hooks on their bodies.
I asked Tomachun my friend, 'why?" & he said, "to ask forgiveness from the god for something horrible s/he had done or to request that the god cure someone's illness or something like that." Each devotee has a chanting & drumming group of 'supporters.' Coconuts are smashed on the ground & tumeric water is thrown over the bare feet of participants.
In 1973 I followed the procession all the way to the Tank Road Temple. I recognised one devotee & spoke to him after have he had completed his devotions & the 'implements' had been removed by family & friends. I asked how he felt. He smiled & said, "exhausted."
I said, "no pain?" He replied, "no pain."
His face glowed & he looked serene.
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