THAIPUSAM is a Hindu festival celebrated by Tamil people on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February) to honour their god Lord Murugan.
Mortification of the flesh is the most common form of ‘worship’
Thaipusam is celebrated in a 3km walk – a walk of intense pain for devotees. All those who wish to ask for a future favour or fulfill a vow in return for a granted favor, or to repent for past sins will participate in this festival (basically, all Hindus)
The Hindu people are intense about their religion, and take some extraordinary measures to display their devotion. Devotees torture their bodies to appease their god. A major feature of Thaipusam celebrations is body piercing with hooks, skewers and small lances called ‘vel’. Many pierce their tongue and cheek to impede speech and thereby attain full concentration on the Lord. Most devotees enter into a trance during such piercing due to the incessant drumming and chanting of “vel vel shakti vel.”
Many devotees pull chariots and heavy objects with hooks attached to their bodies. Some are hung from a decorated bullock cart with the point of incisions of the hooks varying the level of pain. Many wear ‘nail shoes’ for the 3km long walk.
THE GREATER THE PAIN, THE MORE THE GOD-EARNED MERIT
KAVADI is a dance performed by the devotees during the ceremonial worship of Murugan. IT EMPHASISES DEBT BONDAGE.
The Kavadi itself is a physical burden through which the devotees implore for help from the god Murugan. Devotees prepare for the celebration by cleansing themselves through prayer and fasting approx-48 days before Thaipusam. Kavadi-bearers have to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the kavadi and at the time of offering it to Murugan.
On the day of the festival, devotees will undertake a pilgrimage along a set 3km long route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of kavadi (burdens). The simplest kavadi is a semicircular decorated canopy supported by a wooden rod that is carried on the shoulders, to the temple. In addition, many have a small spear through their tongue, or a spear through the cheeks. The kavadi is HEAVY and it is ATTACHED TO HIS FLESH with numerous (usually 64) STEEL RODS AND HOOKS.
THE GREATER THE PAIN, THE MORE THE GOD-EARNED MERIT
Throughout history, in every tribe and culture, we see people who worship a man-made god of some sort, be it a mythological being, an animal, a mountain, a volcano, a wind, a river or whatever. We see them searching for a way to appease their god and going to extremes to do so. At Thaipusam we see them endure enormous pain. In other cultures we other painful rituals and we even see some sacrifice their own children.
Christianity is the only faith where the opposite is true.
God seeks for mankind.
God GIVES FREELY.
Acts of self-sacrifice are not required.
God Himself initiated the ONLY sacrifice that could make a difference.
“God sent His Son”
[1 John 4:10]
“Christ died for the ungodly”
The Hindu people engage in “burden bearing” They try to EARN favour with God. God says that man’s works of righteousness are as filthy rags and CANNOT gain His favour.
I praise God that I have a Burden-Bearer who TOOK my sin and He GAVE me His own righteousness.
2 Corinthians 5:21
GOD made CHRIST,
who was sinless, to be SIN FOR US,
so that we could be
the righteousness of God in Him.
There was no way to earn it. It was a free gift from a loving triune God.
Do you have a burden?
“Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you”
“Cast all your cares upon the Lord, because He cares for you”
1 Peter 5:7
You are desperate for numbers for your religion.
What is written in the article is absolutely true and a time to pray for such devotees, I am writing my thesis on the “motives of self-mortification in the cult of Murugan in Tamil Nadu,” Indeed, this article has encouraged me to give my Theological response at the end of my thesis, please suggest me some theological insights which would enrich my writings.
Outch! All of that looks so painfull!!
Thank you Lord for sending Jesus to die in our place. For our sins have been paid for!
Painful, yes – and so useless, ineffective and unnecessary.
NOTHING but the blood of Jesus can atone for sin. His blood ALONE is pure: untainted by sin.
What an amazing Saviour!
I cringed as I read this and looked at the pictures Angela. My daughter talked about the attempts by some of her students in Thailand to earn merit for themselves or family members to achieve Nirvannah. May we be faithful to declare the word, as you have done. We serve a God who has made us worthy not according to our works but by His!
It is so sad to see or hear of people going to such extremes in order to TRY to please God, but it is just as sad to see people “doing good works” for the same purpose or trying various means to purchase their salvation.
Doesn’t it put us to shame? We who KNOW the love, grace and mercy of God, freely given and KNOW His abiding presence and enjoy the security of being His, SHOULD BE so much more willing to freely give of ourselves in service just because of our love for Him.
We serve an amazing God!
I can’t press the stamp to say “Like” on this one. The images are gross, but I get your drift. I’m so thankful that we don’t need to mutilate ourselves to gain God’s favour.
I know what you mean about the “like” button Stephen.
It is so sad that people go to such extremes trying to please their god, or as a way of penance, when the almighty creator GOD has already done everything needed.
Praise God for calling us to Himself and giving us understanding of His grace. We can never praise Him enough!
This was somewhat difficult to read…the physical torture and pain these people go through trying to please “their” god. Sometimes, even those who live in Christian nations do the same… only more subtle, examples: drugs, alcohol, sex addictions… These are just as painful, only the consequences are sometimes immediate pain.
Bless you my dear sister Angela for standing faithfully watching and waiting!!
oops…I meant to type “consequences are not immediate pain”. .. a little weary eyed
Stephanie, it breaks our hearts to see the extremes people go to in order to try to please their ‘god’ when peace with God has already been purchased for us and is available to us FREE.
I think of Martin Luther who whipped himself often and who crawled on his knees, on pads of rocks, up the tower steps, trying to do penance for his sins. What joy was his when he discovered the release from that bondage when he found that Christ had already paid his penalty and that justification is by faith alone!
We serve an amazing God!
This brought tears, Mentor Angela, as I thought of all He suffered for me. So thankful and amazed that He doesn’t ask us to do anything like this, just believe, accept, and receive His forgiveness. God bless you as you drive home to those reading how amazing He truly is and how much He loves us! love and prayers!
Debbie, we grieve for those poor people who think they can please God with such mortification of the flesh. We long to be able to reach them with the Good News of the Gospel, but at the same time, we are challenged by their “faith” . . . The extremes to which they go put us to shame!
What an amazing Saviour that He suffered so much for me!
Wow. This was fascinating. I think it’s easier to “sell” a religion that is “merit-based” or one that sinners have to “earn” points. But….Giving redemption away for free? Grace? It just doesn’t make sense. And that’s why it’s so hard to accept.
You’d think Thaipusam would fade away. Aren’t devotees disappointed after incurring all that pain so they can gain a favor…and then the miracle they wanted doesn’t occur? What happens then? Do they justify their disappointment by saying, “I guess I didn’t go through enough pain. I’ll do more next year.”
It is human nature to want to pay for favours, and we always want to repay a kindness done. The idea of an omnipotent, creator God actually GIVING rather than demanding does not fit our human reasoning. Maybe that is why, as the Scripture says that the natural (unsaved) person CANNOT receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him. He cannot understand them. 1 Corinthians 2:14. Praise God for His work in giving us understanding and revealing to us the truths of His grace!
Who knows how those poor deluded people think? They possibly think things are a bit better and next year they’ll do a bit more. The trouble with ‘religious’ people of any sort is how they can possibly know how good is good enough.
I praise God that I don’t have to do anything to gain favour with God or to “buy” my salvation because Christ has already done everything needed. His “finished” work at Calvary secured my redemption. Now, I delight to do His will and enjoy the abundance of the new life He has freely given.
What an amazing God!
The lengths we wil go to earn our access to God. As you marvelously say, praise the Lord for a Savior who took the entire wrath and punishment upon Himself on our behalf. Blessings good friend
Our hearts go out to all who do not know the joy and blessings of life in Christ, but we cry more for these people who are so sincere in their devotion, and yet their efforts are futile.
Would that we children of the living God were as willing to ‘show our colours’ to witness for the King of kings. We have EVERYTHING just given to us freely. Our praise should be endless. Our devotion to the King of kings should be obvious to all. Our devotion should be without limit – yet the extent of their devotion (to nothing and for nothing) puts us to shame.
Thanks for sharing, Angela
I am thankful and saddened…Thankful that I know the God you wrote of, but saddened that so many still wander in darkness.
We know we need not take on burdens like these, but many still don’t know the truth of His love.
Over and over I’ve said how thankful I am that He doesn’t demand these things of us. I for one could never afford to pay for my freedom. I am thankful for Calvary and the sacrifice Jesus made.
Thank you for reminding us just how much He loves us.
Yes, Ann, we are saddened and grieved that people live in such darkness. There is little doubt of their devotion, but it is futile. Now, if that devotion was evident in the lives of Christians – who have sooooooooo much reason to be so devoted – the world would ‘see’ the living Christ.
Praise God for the blessings of Calvary; for the efficacy of the blood of Christ; for the removal of our sin burden; for the forgiveness and cleansing received; for the new, empowered life in Christ; for His abiding presence . . . for His countless blessings, all freely given.
What an amazing God!
Once again a much needed posting. It is within a fallen man’s nature to believe that forgiveness must be merited. That is why so many religions “naturally” gravitate towards the teaching that we must try to work our way to forgiveness and acceptance. It is just as you say the one religion that stands against all others is Christianity. When properly understood Christianity teaches that God acts on behalf of undeserving man to grant total forgiveness APART from fallen man’s work or merit.
What a blessing it is … what a miracle it is…. for each one of us to have experienced the Lord’s intervention in our lives and brought us to a point of repentance and belief in HIm!
A miracle indeed, Rob! How I praise Him for calling me to Himself and giving me understanding of His plans and purpose in Christ. The blessings of being “in Christ” are beyond measure – and all freely given.
How our hearts go out to these sincere people! They must be sincere in their devotion and yet it is futile. How sad!
Isn’t it amazing how the knowledge of sin and burden of guilt is so ingrained in the human experience?
Even more amazing is how resistant we can be to the idea that we cannot atone for our own crimes against God but He has promised to clear our debt if we will humbly receive from Him.
This posting reminded me of a favorite passage from Micah:
6:7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
And His response in 6:8
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
We cannot repay Him for what we’ve done wrong. But He can free us to be able to love what He loves.
We cannot pay God for any of His blessings. There is NOTHING we can give God in order to gain favour with Him – but praise God we don’t need to. He FREELY GIVES.
It is soooooooo sad to see the extent to which some go in order to try to gain favour. We admire the extent of their devotion, but know it is futile. Let us pray for Christians who work among these people; that they will be given opportunities to tell them of the one true God and the free salvation He offers.
I’m always stunned when we look at other religions, how devoted they are to a God that does not even exist. And they laugh at us because we are so slack in our faith. They die for their false gods, yet we run from ours and hide. We worship the true God…and He does not ask nor require such things. Why is it so hard to serve a God who only wants us to love Him, serve Him, and obey? I just can’t understand.
Amazing, isn’t it? I often wonder about it. If we thought we had to ‘buy’ or ‘earn’ our salvation, would we be more devoted? Really, we have so much MORE reason to honour and serve our God than they do. He has done soooooooooooooo much for us!
Yes, and this is sad..this is why so many non-Christians and people who serve false religions do not take us seriously. They feel we are weak…not because we’re humble people as God has commanded, but because they see us out sinning and doing what the world does. They see us afraid to stand up for our faith. Even when it is them we’re supposed to be opposing, and we don’t, they see us as weak, and therefore see our God as weak. Of course we know our God is not weak, bu this is how we as Christians make them think..not personally you or I when I say we..just Christians in general.
Yes Lyn. Would that all Christians were as devoted to the living, omnipotent, creator God as these misguided people are to their dead, non-existent, useless gods. We have so MUCH to praise God for. We have the REALITY of life in Christ and His abiding presence. We are guaranteed to be more than conquerors. We SHOULD be a force in the world.
We should be lambs with the faces of lions!