This movie was edited from video I took during the 2007 Thaipusam Festival in Kuala Lumpur (KL) Malaysia. It takes place each year at Batu Caves, in the suburbs of KL, which houses a shrine to the Tamil Hindu god, Lord Murugan. During this three-day festival, devotees (men, women, and children) make offerings to the god as a sign of atonement, including piercing the skin with skewers and hooks as a penance.
As can be seen in my movie, those that had skewers in their face or had been pierced with tiny rings, oranges, or even coconuts hanging from the hooks, were in a deep trance. Dancing to the beat of drums in front and behind them or listening to the chants yelled by their friends and family. A short distance from where the caves are is a river where devotees cleanse themselves and are pierced through the cheek or tongue with a skewer.
As I approached the river, I came to a group of men, women, and children surrounding a middle aged man with his palms facing upward, his eyes closed, and turning a spear over and over in his hand. I listened to the repetitive chants, of what sounded like one word, “Vel,” which means spear. Another man, who seemed to be a priest, was at his side, hands clasped together. They were preparing this man to be pierced and bringing him into a trance, so he would feel no pain. The sounds all around me had such a rhythm and the voices were so powerful, that as I listened, my lips parted and I began to join in and say the words as best as I could. It was moments like this one that embodied my experience at this festival.