Thaipusam 2012 - Singapore, a set on Flickr.
Until I saw these people barefoot with giant fish hooks, skewers and other metal spikes several feet long piercing their bodies and hauling large heavy structures, I never would have imagined this practice still being observed, especially, in such a developed country.
Hindus subject themselves to painful rituals (piercing themselves with hooks, skewers and small lances) in honor of the Thaipusam festival in Singapore and Malaysia.
The colorful celebration is a period of both abstinence and fasting, and is observed as a day of thanksgiving and paying penance in commemoration of the day when the Hindu Goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Muruga -- the god of war and fertility -- an invincible lance with which he destroyed evil demons. (Wikipedia).
Hindus believe they are cleansed of all sins and their misdeeds can be redeemed by observing these strict rituals and prayers during Thaipusam. Some devotees carrying heavy ornate structures called kavadis as they walk barefoot, while others have their tongues, cheeks and backs pierced.
We were watching from the end of the route, after the devotees had gone through the Tank Road Temple with their offerings. So, many had already disconnected their carriages that they had been pulling and a few had removed some hooks. Still...unbelievable.
Seeing the hooks and skewers removed looked more painful than seeing them attached to the body. Ready to collapse from the pain as they are pulled out, one by one.
These devotees walked over 4km this morning enduring the pain, some still dancing around at the completion. Others, gesturing for support from their followers, as they walked into the final tent for removal of the piercings.
They can not talk with the large skewers through their cheeks and mouth, so they are surrounded by others closely observing, in case help is needed.
We kept our distance, so I didn't have to worry about the kids getting in the way or grabbing at anything they shouldn't be touching.
These people are dedicated, or crazy, I'll let you make your own opinion!