(sanskrit) bhAvAkUta n. the first emotions of love
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Thaipusam 2010 is 01 Feb 2010 - 28 Feb 2010.

Thaipusam is celebrated mainly by the Tamil community. It is a Hindu festival celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan-Feb) on a full moon night. The festival marks the birthday of Lord Murugan (also Subramaniam) who was  the youngest son of Shiva and Parvati. This festival is also the occasion when Murugan was given a vel (lance) by parvati so that he could destroy the evil demon Soorapadman. Pusam refers to a star that is at its highest point during the festival.

Preparation  for the festival celebration begins with the devotees  praying and fasting in order to cleanse themselves. Devotees shave their heads on the day of the festival in order to undertake a set route pilgrimage. At the same time they also engage themselves in various acts such as carrying various types of kavadi (burdens) in order to show their devotion.This act could be as simple as carrying a pot of milk. More difficult and pain enduring act are also common such as  piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers.

Vel kavadi is the most spectacular practice of them all. It is essentially a portable altar which is about two meters tall.The altar is decorated with peacock feathers. It is attached to a devotee through 108 vels which are  pierced into the devotee`s skin. The common claim  by the devotees is that they are able to enter trance which allows them to not bleed and not feel any pain.Other practices such as fire walking and flagellation is also seen. However, many of these pactices which extend to extreme masochism are constantly criticized by many as being against to the spirit and intention of Hinduism that is celebrated in this festival.

Amisha Patel
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