Location: Pangkor, Malaysia  |  Year: 2005/2010  |   Length: 15 min

The Thaipusam festival honours Lord Muruga, the Hindu God of War, and coincides with the full moon at the end of January and beginning of February. Lord Muruga was the youngest son of Lord Shiva. He is worshipped by Indians in southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, for driving evil out of the world using the Divine Lance. 

The Thaipusam celebrations carried out by the Malaysian Tamil community have become the largest in the world, attracting over 1 million devotees in the capital Kuala Lumpur. During the festival devotees enter into trance with the help of a facilitator and subsequently accept various forms of body piercing, performed using hooks and skewers, all sterilised with the aid of bananas. The aim is to seek penance for past actions which are believed to be inflicting negative energy or luck upon the receiver or their family, or for future events in which the receiver wishes to be granted a favourable outcome.
There is no bloodshed during the ritual piercing, nor is there any pain. The devotees overcome pain by cleansing themselves with prayer and fasting for the preceding month, and focusing the mind on spirituality and liberation from worldly desires at the time of offering. This allows them to enter into the state of trance necessary to allow their bodies to be pierced. Although the ritual acts of penance may seem harsh to un-accustomed eyes, Thaipusam is a joyous festival for all the family, including the elderly and the very young. It is a powerful experience, and it is full of good energy.


An individual project by Julienne Rathore.