Thaipusam festival, Johor Bahru, 31st Jan 2018

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Last year was my first occassion to witness the Thaipusam festival as it started off from Taman Merdeka, so this year I decided to observe the occassion at the larger Arulmigu Rajamariamman Devasthanam Temple in central Johor Bahru. I arrived at 8 am to find devotees preparing themselves for the event, and the foreground of the temple was full of strange objects which would later be carried by men up into and out of the temple, then onto the streets and off down Jalan Wong Ah Fook towards Jalan Kuil Murugan Temple. After the devotees had been blessed, many had skewers placed through their mouths to the accompaniment of raucous noise and encouraging chants. For those gentlemen carrying the heavy kavadi, they were distracted particularly by the musicians; there were many groups of musicians beating drums today. 

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It is hard to portray the spirit of Thaipusam just in photos, so I have included some videos as well. It is usual for devotess to smash a coconut on the ground in front of the temple. Sadly this meant my camera lens got splashed with coconut juice and oil and I did not notice early enough. So, please try and ignore the smudge on some of the videos! I think you will find the images distracting enough to ignore this issue. The piercing of mouth, cheeks, and skin, as seen in some of these photos, is a measure of devotion demonstrated by the Tamil community. Yet everyone undergoing this procedure seemed calm.

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© Helen Gray 2019