Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Chant of the Vel

Fly away I just realized that I never really wrote about my 2007 Thaipusam. The truth is I’m still working on the images I took in February as that was the month I traveled to Cambodia right after Thaipusam.

Though I’ve been going to Thaipusam forever, I’ve never had the chance to follow a kavadi bearer coz none of my friends or family members carried one. Then around last year we reunited with an old friend and realized he actually carries the Kavadi every year with around 10 of his friends.

Potrait of a Devotee

And so when he invited us to join him and made sure I was gonna cover the whole process, I decided to invite some of my other photographer friends as well.

Kavadi Early Thaipusam morning a few of us met up and drove towards BC. Surprisingly the roads were clear and we arrived pretty early to the meeting spot at the temples gates. Everyone who were most first time Thaipusam visitors were pretty stocked to the sounds and sights that greeted them. It took us some time to find my friends group as everyone kept stopping to take photos.

Mysterious light When we finally reached the group had already begun getting their kavadis ready and making sure every bolt in the frame was in perfect condition to ensure nothing would fall off during the walk and numerous dances. Carrying a 60 -100 kg Kavadi is no joke yet they twirl to the music oblivious to the physical challenge.

Prayers We then headed further down to their starting point where the prayers were going to be held. The 7 kavadis were lined up in a circle as friends and family stood by each bearer for moral support and the much needed in between physical support.

The men behind the Kavadi
Though only one person carries the Kavadi, it is a group effort with family and friends supporting the weight of the kavadi as they sit down for a brief rest and ensuring the crowd doesn't get in the way of their sudden urge to dance to the music.

Blessed Right after the group prayers, each kavadi bearer headed to his own kavadi and waited for his turn to be strapped on before the piercing begins. Prayers are told and blessings are seeked to ensure they finish the journey that started a month ago. Just a week back they had taken turns to hold prayers at each of their homes in anticipation of the journey.

TranceEach person reacted differently to the piercing, some struggled in pain, others like my friend had a mysterious laughter etched on his face and some silently took everything in without a single reaction.

Seeking an answer I would call it a team effort in many ways, the bearers sometimes need the extra push from their loved ones to push them towards their goal.

The Challenge Then there is that bewitching music, percussions that burn your soul. The music from these litte drums tends to haunt the soul and before you know it you become one with their journey.

Blue Shades Everytime the rhythm picks up, the once silent resting kavadi bearer jumps into action and twirls to the beat of the drums. And as sudden as their start, they suddenly stop and the mood returns to a solemn one, a stark contrast to their vigorous dance just a second ago.

Dance1.3 million people made their way to the 2007 Thaipusam celebrations in Batu Caves alone. The draw towards the festival is unexplainable, we keep going back for more, never getting enough of the sounds, smells and that first sight of Lord Muruga in his cave temple.

Where are my thoughtsThoughts are controlledTrance

The journey is long, the challenges many but determination, concentration, self control, and vel - vel, are the manthra's that drives these Kavadi bearers.

*Thaipusam is the day lord Muruga received his "vel" or lance from Goddess to vanquish the evil demon, Soorapadam.

For more photos go here


Shalini Gowrisankar said...

Nice pics! and very well written.. Can I add you to my blogroll?

visithra said...

shalini : welcome here - thanks - sure u can