Thaipoosam, photo essay by Avijit Ghosh
Thaipoosam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the victory of Hindu god Murugan Over demon Sūrapadman. It is believed that when all of Devas were defeated by ashuras, godess Parvati gave Murugan, ‘Vel’ (divine sword) to kill Sūrapadman (Ashura).
In West Bengal There are few Tamil communities who celebrate this festival in April. On the day of the festival, devotees undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk (pal kavadi), but piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers is also common. Journey starts, when the highest priest of the temple pierce tongue, chest and back of devotees.
A more elaborate kavadi consists of two semicircular pieces of wood or steel which are bent and attached to a cross structure that can be balanced on the shoulders of the devotee. It is often decorated with flowers and peacock feathers (the vehicle of God Murugan) among other things.
The most spectacular practice is Fire walking.at the end of route, devotees walk on the fire. It is claimed that devotees are able to enter a trance, feel no pain, do not bleed from their wounds and have no scars left behind.
(by Avijit Ghosh)