Thousands of Hindu devotees performed ritual piercings on their bodies with skewers and hooks as part of the Thaipusam Festival in Chennai on Saturday.
Devotees could be seen having their cheeks and tongues pierced with long skewers as well as hooks pierced into their backs through which they pulled processional carts for a Thaipusam celebration procession in the eastern Indian city.
Other worshippers could be seen walking on hot coals while carrying milk pots on their heads as offerings, while others carried heavy ornate semi-circular structures called ‘kavadi’ as they walked barefoot.
The colourful celebration is the culmination of a period of both abstinence and fasting and is observed as a day of thanksgiving and paying a penance. Hindus believe they are cleansed of all sins and their misdeeds can be redeemed by observing these strict rituals and prayers during Thaipusam.
The holiday is celebrated on the full moon of the Tamil month of Thai, which spans from approximately the middle of January to the middle of February in the Gregorian calendar, primarily by the Tamil and Malayali communities throughout India, Southeast Asia, and around the world.
According to Hindu mythology, goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Murugan a lance to kill evil demons, which are symbolised by the skewers devotees use to pierce themselves. Prior to Thaipusam, worshippers will typically hold daily prayer sessions, abstain from sex and stick to a strict vegetarian diet for 48 days.
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