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Hindus pierce bodies at religious festival in Malaysia

By Mark Phillips, CNN
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Hindu festival of Thaipusam
  • For Hindus, it's a chance to ask for a prosperous year
  • Participants engage in acts of devotions
  • Such acts include piercing the body with spikes or hooks
  • 7.5 percent of Malaysians are Malay/Indian

North of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) -- Beating drums accompany hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers as they inch their way toward the entrance of the Batu caves just north of Malaysia's capital for the festival of Thaipusam.

The festival is celebrated under a full moon and many Hindus come to ask Lord Muruga for good health and peace for the year, to help them find a job or to cure a sick relative.

Some pierce their faces with metal spikes and have hooks inserted into their bodies while in a trance before climbing the 272 steps to the temples inside one cave.

Others carry pots of milk as offerings to Lord Muruga, the god of war and the patron deity of the Tamil land. The festival runs a few days in late January in Malaysia, where 7.5 percent of the population is Malay/Indian.

Participants engage in various acts of devotion, notably carrying some types of burdens, of which piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks is also common.

Many who take part do so because they want to reaffirm their Hindu faith and believe that their sins can be cleansed. According to their faith, it is the chance to ask for forgiveness and to look forward to a prosperous year.