Many religious traditions include rituals of supplication and self sacrifice. One such occasion is the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, which is taking place this week in Malaysia and other parts of southeast Asia. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont.
Although orthodox Hinduism prohibits doing bodily injury, many celebrants at Thaipusam pierce their cheeks and tongues in a gesture of self-sacrifice to honor the deity known as Murugan. In part, this practice comes out of the close association between Murugan and a rounded blade, known as a vel. In this recording, you can hear the crowd invoking Murugan by chanting ‘vel, vel.’
“Murugan has one weapon in his hand, vel. Now if you look at the vel, its designed like a teardrop.”
Dr. K. Ramanathan is a professor at the University of Science in Malaysia. He tells us that the vel’s teardrop shape is also a reminder of the ways in which Hindus should approach their faith.
“The top is very pointed, the middle is broad, and the bottom is rounded. It’s significant of anything you do you must do deep, you must do broad, you must also be rounded in it. Whatever knowledge you have you must be very deep in that knowledge, you must have a broad-based knowledge and you must also have a rounded knowledge. Now, the vel is significant of this aspect of faith , of whatever you do.”
Devotees at Thaipusam will participate in chanting, fasting and prayer.
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