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India – Apri 2017. A woman painting colorful motifs near temple

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).

PRIVATE 43, Other Side India (photo cover: Gauri Gill)

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)

A man holding hooks which devotees later use to pierce themselves
A man dancing as he has entered a trance
A woman lying senseless after coming out of trance

A teenage girl carrying milk pot on her head.
A devotee’s back pierce with hook.
A devotee crossing over the child as people believe it is bless full.
Local people are watching the road procession
Devotee carrying fire on his solder and walking on fire.
A devotee’s face is bleeding as he fall down on the fire with a long vel inside his face.

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Avijit Ghosh

[b. 1993] I am a self taught 23 years freelance travel and documentary photographer. I am from India, a land of thousands of different cultures… More »

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