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Thapusam
November 25, 2003 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Thaipusam. "The Hindu people are intense about their religion, and take some extraordinary measures to display their devotion. A good example is the Thaipusam festival." Warning - images may be disturbing to some people! (more inside)
posted by Joey Michaels (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I was dangeorusly close to derailing the excellent FPP on Mishima Yukio with this information on one of the most fascinating religious festivals in the world. I believe it is a worthwhile FPP on its own, but I have to thank adamgreenfield and cnx for inspiring me to find these sites again.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:13 PM on November 25, 2003


Dangerously close? I mean... how dangerous was it?
posted by xmutex at 3:17 PM on November 25, 2003


Thank you and you're welcome!

That level of spiritual devotion is difficult to match.. well, without scars.
posted by cnx at 3:21 PM on November 25, 2003


While I was living in Malaysia I had the fortune to visit the Batu Caves during the festival (the caves are the centre of the Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur) and it was incredible. I climbed to the top of the few hundred steps and looked down at a mass of humanity. There was this strange energy in the air too. And some of those piercings are incredible. They have bloody limes on the end of them. Lime juice in an open wound has gotta sting.
posted by dazed_one at 3:27 PM on November 25, 2003


Are there posts on Metafilter that aren't on the front page? Where can I find these posts?
posted by hammurderer at 3:45 PM on November 25, 2003


xmutex: We're talking blood flying twenty feet over the Berlin wall close. Seriously. Lives would have been lost.

---

dazed_one: I have not had the honor of seeing the festival live. My entire exposure to it was as part of a seminar on Southeast Asian Theatre. That being said, the limes are what get me every time I look at images of Thaipusam, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:12 PM on November 25, 2003


[ Thanks for sharing ]
posted by shoepal at 4:33 PM on November 25, 2003


And most of my Hindu friends equate this with Rattlesnake handling Christians. It's there, but most people think they're insane.
posted by KnitWit at 4:48 PM on November 25, 2003


a crazed fundy is still a crazed fundy by any name.
posted by quonsar at 4:52 PM on November 25, 2003


but at least these folks only do things to their own bodies, not try to enforce their devotion on others. It's really interesting, and kinda gross--i'm glad they aren't permanently hurt by it.
posted by amberglow at 4:54 PM on November 25, 2003


So where are the women? Are they just smarter than these idiots or not allowed to try?
posted by skallas at 4:58 PM on November 25, 2003


I must admit to being a bit of a fan of Thaipusam. Thanks for the link.

A Chinese-Malaysian friend of mine gave this a go a few years back - it was certainly a memorable experience for him.
posted by plep at 12:07 AM on November 26, 2003


Salon article on Thaipusam. 'It is more disturbing to see women in trances than to see men similarly affected. The women in the throes of religious ecstasy -- with their hair unbound and uncombed, tongues artificially reddened with saffron powder and lewdly flitting in and out of their mouths, crazy/sensual smiles, eyes rolling and breasts and hips undulating -- violate even my notions of propriety on a deeply visceral level. It is an abandonment of self-control, at once spiritual and lewdly sexual. In history one reads of such phenomena. In Greece, according to "The Bacchae" of Euripides, the Dionysian rites are said to have deeply disturbed some elements of the community. '

So women do participate, and not just in a supporting role; but I don't think they are allowed to be pierced - I don't think that the piercees are allowed contact with women for about a month before the festival (on the grounds that the pent-up sexual passion is sublimated into religious passion); they also have to stick to a vegetarian diet before Thaipusam. As far as I know, Thaipusam is mostly limited to the Tamils of Singapore and Malaysia, although sometimes people from other communities participate - Hinduism is a very diverse religion.

Whatever you think of this festival, the human mind (its capacity for faith and the sheer self-control required for this) is an amazing thing.
posted by plep at 12:23 AM on November 26, 2003


I've experienced Thaipusam at Batu Caves in Malaysia and the women are an integral part – carrying (heavy looking) metal containers of milk on their heads and many (if not most) with their tongues pierced with skewers, some have them through their cheeks. The year I was there it was estimated a million people visited the caves over the two days of the festival. Inside the caves is a sight to behold – a seething mass of people, colours, an overpowering smell of camphor and off-milk, smashed coconuts galore.

Also worthy of note is the lack of aggression from the devotees towards the many tourists, mingling with the crowds waiting for a great (ie. horiffic) photo opportunity. I can just see this up there with Pamplona, Munich, Amsterdam, Goa, etc, on the gap year trail.
posted by niceness at 6:02 AM on November 26, 2003


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