Vel Festival in West Bengal, India

Possessed, India – April 2018
Vel Festival in West Bengal
by Debarshi Mukherjee
India

It is a strong belief that according to Hindu mythology, Goddess Parvati presented a Vel (Spear) to her son Murugan as a personification of her powers or Shakti in order to defeat the evil sura Soorapadman. As per the Skanda Purana, in the war between Murugan and Soorapadman, Murugan used the Vel to crush all the evil forces of Soorapadman.

Vel, as a symbol of divinity, is an object of worship in the temples dedicated to Lord Murugan — the Hindu god of war and a son of Shiva. The Vel festival in Bengal is version of the annual Thaipusam festival celebrates in Southern India, Sri Lanka. During this festival, many devotees pierce their skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers while undertaking a procession towards the Shiva temple.

Frenzied participants are seen shouting and chanting “Ael! Vel! Vel! Vel!” above the drumming during the procession.

The ones pierced sometimes also carry burdens, in the form of chariots connected to their backs through piercings and ropes. Though extreme and painful to look at, it is quite a spectacle.

Many devotees are also seen with a cloth tied on their mouth, signifying their oath of silence till the festival concludes. Others may be seen carrying a pot of milk as offering. Performers are often seen moving in a trance or appearing to be possessed before the piercing ceremony begins. They are first cleansed by bathing and then undergo the piercing process.

The worshipers who pierce their cheeks, tongues and faces with sharp objects hardly bleed and claim to be feeling very little pain! Many say that their wounds heal almost immediately without leaving scar marks.

The festival is symbolized by colors yellow and orange, significant to Lord Murugan.

Vel festival or  Vel Vel or sometimes also called Adi Vel is held in a town at the outskirts of Kolkata, West Bengal.

The Devotee
Getting Pierced
Pierced Devotee
Performance
Oath of Silence
The Burden
Procession
Vel Rituals
Vel performer
Pierced Burden
Blessing the Child
Debarshi Mukherjee

Debarshi Mukherjee

Debarshi Mukherjee (b. (1984), an Indian born photographer, has been associated in the field of photography for the last 3-4 years. He was recently acknowledged with Artiste FIAP distinction and BEPSS distinction for his photographic achievements. He is a member of the “Federation of Indian Photography”, the national photography body in India.

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