29 hours, door to door. Check into hotel. Sleep 3 hours. Up at 4am. Go to Thaipusam.
Didn’t know about Thaipusam before this trip, and the timing is completely coincidental, but photographically fortuitous. It is one of the wildest explosions of human frenzy, devotion and religious fervor I have ever been to. It is the Hindu celebration of the birthday of Lord Muruga, and thousands gather amidst the heat, sweat and incense to seek his blessings and render homage. Many bear gifts, simple as a pot of milk, up the long walk to the Batu Caves. Others spin themselves into a frenzy, drift into trances, pierce their flesh, and hoist enormous kavadi on their shoulders. The kavadi is a physical and symbolic burden, a means of imploring help from Muruga.
Many Hindus prepare for the day by cleansing and fasting, and then, upon arrival at the shrine, shaving their heads.
Cleansing is one of the watchwords of the day, as devotees gather at the river to wash and prepare for the hike up to the caves.
It was down by the river that trances were induced and the ritual piercings began. In the intense, sweaty crush, air thick with smoke from burning joss sticks, camphor, and spice smells I had no knowledge of, people yipped, spoke in tongues and were literally harnessed for the journey to Muruga.
Yikes. My head was swirling with the smells, the beating of drums, the feverish cries and acrid air, redolent with incense smoke, not to mention no sleep and a total parachuting into a different realm of senses and beliefs. Potent stuff for pictures. I must have been wide eyed as this young boy, all morning.
Back to the hotel. Sleep. Monday’s on my doorstep…..more tk….