A few weeks ago, was the Hindu festival, Thaipusam. I stayed with a really young Indian family in Gopeng, a town 20 or so minutes from Ipoh.
Thaipusam is honestly one of the craziest, breath-taking, and somewhat terrifying thing I've experienced. A bit about the background of the festival: during this festival, Hindus do many things to honor one of their gods. Some carry pots of milk, other stick spears though their mouth or carry/ pull heavy parade-like floats on their back. Which are attached to hooks that are pierced into the skin.
This sounds incredibly painful, but it is said that the people are in a trance while being pierced repeatedly, and they don't feel a thing. This trance also gives them a slightly manic look to their faces. Add that to the giant spears going through their mouths and you get a slightly terrifying picture.
You can read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaipusam
On the morning of Thaipusam, I went to the temple with my Indian host mom, auntie and grandmother. Ipoh is known for its striking cliff views and I was finally able to do something I always wanted to, enter a cave temple. The crowds were so dense that everyone moved as one mob, which filled the musty cave with a very centralized energy.
I love how colorful Indian culture is. Vibrant temples, vivid candles, a rainbow of saree colors. Tamil and Hindi conversations, chanting, a bit of India here in Malaysia. It was an amazing experience to be part of that energy, something I'll never forget.
The second night of Thaipusam, I volunteered on the streets of Ipoh. My Indian host dad for the week works for an electronic communication company, and that company had a booth to serve food and drink to the temple goers. We're talking giant vats of curry and rice, enough to feed 5,000 people.
Lise's and my job was to pour drinks. While this may have seemed like a simple task, puring juice while wearing a saree is not easy! Sequined sarees, heavy bangles, and fake hairpieces are so not intended for people that have to walk back and forth between a table and a tub of juice. Ah well, these are the lessons that one learns here.
Albeit a bit shocking, Thaipusam is a festival I was lucky to experience. So much of what goes on in my life here I would have never been able to learn about back in The States. I am eternally grateful to Malaysia for opening my eyes to all these new things.
|A man was pulling this with rope attached to hooks in his back|