By Taniya Dutta
These stunning pictures show hundreds of Hindu devotees gathering in an annual procession with their bodies pierced with metal hooks and skewers to honour Lord Murugan-the god of war.
The devotees descended at Vadapalani Temple in Chennai in southern India on Wednesday for the annual procession of Thaipusam, carrying heavy ornate metal structures hammered into their bodies.
Throughout the ceremonial parade, a heavily decked chariot carrying the deity was pulled by the temple’s main priest with ropes tied to hooks affixed in his back.
A sea of people adorned in bright yellow traditional clothes and garlands walked in tandem with the chariot carrying milk pots and coconuts that were smashed later as offerings to the God, who is believed to be the destructor of evil.
While some devotees were seen wincing in pain as the priest impaled sharp skewers through their mouth, others appeared to be in a state of trance as they carried the metal structures called Kavadis, which can weigh as much as 220 pounds, in tridents and chains hooked to their bodies, in an act of penance.
Many, including women and children displayed their devotion by walking over burning embers.
Prior to Thaipusam devotees will typically hold daily prayer sessions, abstain from sex and stick to a strict vegetarian diet for weeks.
Lord Murugan is particularly revered in southern India and among ethnic Tamil communities in South East Asia.
The festival lasts for 3 to 21 days in different parts of southern India and is also celebrated by Hindu community in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore where it is a bank holiday.