Thaipusam is the most important religious festival celebrated by Hindus. It is observed in the month of ‘Thai’, the tenth month which is a very important month in the Tamil calendar. On Thaipusam, the full moon is in transit through the brightest star, Pusam in the zodiacal sign of Cancer.
For Hindus, Thaipusam is a day of atonement for sins. On this auspicious day, the image of Lord Subramaniam, youngest son of the mighty Shiva - the most awesome God of the Hindu pantheon, is placed on a silver chariot and taken around in a grand procession to the accompaniment of instrumental music.
Devotees who observe this great day of penance, spiritually cleanse themselves by undergoing a month long fast. They observe frequent prayers, consume a single vegetarian meal daily and abstain from sex. Twenty-four hours before the carrying of kavadis, a complete fast is observed by devotees.
Kavadis are carried in fulfilment of vows and pledges taken in devotion to Lord Subramaniam. Kavadis are semicircular steel frames with bars for support on the shoulders, decorated with flowers and peacock feathers. Other devotees walk in sandals embedded with iron nails or stick small spears made of silver through their cheeks, tongues and bodies. However, there appears to be no physical pain encountered through these processes!