Anchored by a large, colourful annual procession, Thaipusam sees Hindu devotees in Singapore seeking blessings, fulfilling vows and offering thanks.
The festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Subramaniam (also known as Lord Murugan), who represents virtue, youth and power, and is the destroyer of evil.
The festival generally lasts for 2 days. On the eve, the chariot procession (with the Lord Subramaniam statue) begins from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple at Serangoon Road to Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple at Keong Siak Road.
The Thaipusam ceremony starts in the early hours of the morning. The first batch of devotees carry milk pots and wooden kavadis. Some pierce their tongues with skewers and carry a wooden kavadi decorated with flowers and peacock feathers balanced on their shoulders. Other devotees carry spiked kavadis that require elaborate preparation.
'Kavadi' literally means ‘sacrifice at every step’ in Tamil, and indeed, this proves to be the case if you take a closer look. A semi-circular steel or wooden frame, a 'kavadi' is meant to be hoisted by a devotee for the length of the procession. It has bars for support on the shoulders, is decorated with flowers and peacock feathers, and some have spikes that pierce into the body. It can top out at 40 kilogrammes and reach a height of four metres.