A Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community Thai Poosam is one of the important fairs and festivals in Tamil Nadu. Celebrated with great fervor in the holy town of Palani, Thai Poosam celebrates the birthday of Lord Murugan (also referred as Subramanium) - the youngest son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The festival also commemorates the occasion when Parvati had given Murugan a vel (lance) with which to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. Celebrations during Thai Poosam festival last for ten days surrounding the full moon, and are concentrated in the temples, where thousands of devotees gather to prove their devotion to the Lord.
Time of Celebration of Thai Poosam
Thai Poosam in Tamil Nadu is celebrated each year on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai which falls in the month of January/February of the English Calendar. The word Pusam refers to a star that is at its highest position during the festival.
The sacred town of Palani in Tamil Nadu celebrates Thai Poosam with much grandeur and gaiety. Thousands of devotees flock to Palani for the annual Thai Poosam Festival. The devotees prepare for the festival by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting. The most important celebrations are held on the Thai Poosam day itself when devotees assemble at the Palani Temples of Murugan.
On the day of the Thai Poosam festival, devotees shave their heads, and set out for the pilgrimage along a set route while engaging themselves in various acts of devotion, especially carrying different types of kavadi (burdens). While some of the devotees simply carry a pot of milk as a kavadi, some others go to the extent of mortifying the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with vel skewers. The most amazing practice is the vel kavadi, which is a portable altar about two meters tall, adorned with peacock feathers and attached to the devotee's body through 108 vels pierced into the skin on the chest and at back. The devotees claim that they get into a trance like situation, where they do not feel any pain, nor do they bleed from their wounds and even no scars are left behind. Fire walking and flagellation are also practiced to prove the devotion of the pilgrims during the Thai Poosam.