Thousands throng Batu Caves to mark Thaipusam
Published:  Jan 28, 2002 1:32 AM
Updated: Jan 29, 2008 10:21 AM

(AFP) Thousands of devotees with pierced bodies climbed to a hilltop temple on the outskirts of Malaysia's capital today in an annual Hindu ritual to mark the festival of Thaipusam.

With skewered cheeks and hooks and spikes hanging from their bodies, the faithful made their way up the 272 steps of Batu Caves to fulfil their vows and show penitence.

The men, who were in a trance-like state, had all undergone purifying rituals a month prior to the festival, including offering daily prayers and following a strict vegetarian diet.

At the foot of the hill, devotees smashed coconuts to symbolise the shattering of their ego as thousands more offered prayers and sang religious songs in celebration of the birth of Lord Muruga, youngest son of Lord Shiva.

Chariot procession

In past years, more than a million people have converged at the caves during the three days around Thaipusam, which started yesterday with a chariot procession from the city centre.

The silver chariot, which bore the images of Lord Muruga and his consorts, made its 20 kilometre journey from the city temple to the caves.

Several thousand devotees joined in yesterday's colourful procession as the heavily decorated chariot passed through many of the city's major roads.

More than seven percent of Malaysia's 23 million people are ethnic Indians, and the festival is a public holiday in five of Malaysia's 13 states.

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