Thaipoosam Hindu festival - inspiring facts

Lord Subramanya (Murugan).
Among the Hindu  festivals of India, the Thaipusam festival has been around for centuries. Hinduism, as one may be aware, is the oldest living religion and the word in Sanskrit is derived from the term Sindhu (or Indus), which meant river. It implies the people of the Indus Valley civilization that flourished a few thousand years ago in the  Indian subcontinent. This oldest religion, in reality, is a way of life and has neither a founder, nor does it have  prescribed priesthood or hierarchical structure as one may find in some other religions, such as Christianity.

Hinduism does not boast of a single uniform canon. The religion follows the oldest writing called the Vedas ( compiled over a period of time meaning knowledge) that contains  hymns, explanations, chants for worship, Philosophy, etc. In the Hindu Pantheon there are innumerable gods and goddesses and it is tough to remember more than 100. Many Gods and Goddesses  are in charge of specific duties. However, the basic aspect of Hinduism is God is formless and his origin and end are fathomless. One universal reality (or god) known as Brahman is the gist of Hinduism. Brahman is impersonal and is above all. After performing our duties on earth without fail  the aim must be focused on getting salvation.  The great epics of the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita are fundamental to Hinduism. These epics focus on how a man should live to lead the path of righteousness, no matter what his circumstances are. In Hinduism, there is no room for evil forces, such forces ought to be destroyed by the Almighty God who, in the past, took several avatars to eliminate them. Among the Trinity Gods  Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the sustainer) and Shiva (the destroyer), the latter two have countless temples across India dedicated to them, where as, the former has a few temples  owing to a curse cast by Lord Shiva. Only lord Shiva has two sons - Ganapathy and Subramanyam (Murugan) or Kathkaya. The respective goddesses are being worshipped in the form of Shakti and she goes by different forms and names Such as Kali, Durga, Veera Lakshmi, Kamatchi, etc. Their main function is elimination of evil, protection of the good and imparting of knowledge and wisdom.  Lesser gods and goddesses (devtas) serve them, hence they are also venerated as gods.

Fascinating facts of Thaipoosam festival:

 --Thaipusam is an annual South Indian festival  celebrated primarily by the Tamil-speaking Saivite Hindus of Tamil Nadu.

 -- Thaipusam is the birthday of Lord Subramaniam (Lord Muruga), the younger son of Lord Shiva.

 --  The festival gets its name from its occurrence at the full moon during the Tamil month Thai (from the end of January to the beginning of February) with the influencing star Poosam.

-- On this day Shiva's consort gave a divine Vel /Spire  (Soolam -trident)- to kill the demon king Surapadman who gave hell to the demi-gods _devas and to  usher in peace and tranquillity in the Indiralokam.  Lord Shiva gave him eleven weapons to fight the mighty demon.
Palani Murugan hill temple,TN.Vyasapeetham-WordPress.com6

--  The festival may last for  a week or more and ends with a religious procession or  temple car  (chariot) and float festival at most of the Saivite temples of Tamil Nadu.

-- This festival is observed in counties like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore and other countries where a sizable Tamil community lives. 

 -- Part of this festival marks the observance of certain ritualistic acts of devotion and austerities that many westerners may consider weired.

-- During the colonial period, certain acts of rituals were banned in the 19th century in India and elsewhere;  later it was lifted upon representation to the government.

-- Thaipoosam has nothing to do with occult or black magic  when the devotees are engaged in certain self-inflicted acts that cause bodily pain. countless people go into a trance or hypnotic sleep during their ritualistic engagement.   

-- The purpose of these acts of devotion and austerities was to get  salvation  by way of enduring a period  of penance and pain. This preparation begins with a ritual bath and entrance into a trance like state.

-- Countless people, early in the day, have their bodies   pierced with a fishhook. Some may have pierced their cheeks on both sides with a sharp hook going across the mouth.

-- Hindus, in particular, Tamils  show their  deep devotion to Subramaniam /Murugan in many ways. One being  involved in what is called Kavadi Attam that tests their capacity  to withstand physical pain.

A kavadi is a  small light-weight colorfully decorated wooden arch (canopy) with  a wooden base/ bar. Decorations include  flowers, peacock feathers, and paper. It is carried across on one side of the devotee's shoulder, with various food offerings tied to the base (bar) to counter balance the weight.
People carrying kavadi at Palani, Tamil Nadu. Ganpat Grand Hotel
-- The kavadi ("burden") itself is a physical burden,  The devotee  implore Murugan for assistance during his ordeal. Upon successful fulfilment, bearing Kavadi is a way to pay back the spiritual debt to Lord Muruga.

-- A kavadi bearer should have a clean bath, refrain from non-vegetarian food, engage in puja  and abstinence from sex long before his ritualistic undertaking. Body piercing with sharp objects is optional and this needs special preparation. Not all men and women are allowed in this ritual.
A young devotee with tongue pierced witha
-- Many devotees after certain rituals, carry  the kavadi along the processional route till they reach the near-by temple. where they lay down the kavadi after puja. For further reading please refer to:

-- As for, people with tongue or cheeks pierced with sharp  objects, at the temple, the Pujari or priest removes them carefully and then apply  hot ash on the  parts. These participants, surprisingly, neither suffer from acute pain or fatigue nor develop a scar. 
Some devotees pull a small chariot tied to the hooks pierced into their bodies and move carefully forward. Other may  wear sandals studded with nails inside and walk to their destination. A procession of Kavadi bearers, including many without body piercing, etc move along to the accompaniments of chanting Ohm Muruga and heavy rhythmic beat of drums. The atmosphere is reverberated with bhakti and devotion till the procession reaches the venerated temple. 

-- The strong belief has been that 01. Carrying the kavadi - a sort of self-infliction, on Thaipusam day will wash off sins committed with knowledge without knowledge, 02. To express gratitude to God Karthikaya for  having fulfilled one's prayer. ex. birth of a baby to a childless couple, success in business, recovery from a dreaded ailment, 03. Amicable settlement of a rift between the couple, etc. 04.As for food, the must eat satvik food.- strictly vegetarian food. 05. For a period beforte Kavadi ritual, the devotees must sleep on the floor. Mind must be focussed on god and no lose talk. 
Participating in such ritualistic ordeal is good for the physical and mental well-being and positively, it improves one's vairagya/  commitment.


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