Malaysians are increasingly seeking spiritual aid from an assortment of gods and faith healers to solve personal problems in this mostly-Muslim but multi-religious Southeast Asia nation.
The Thaipusam festival, which originated in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and was introduced to Malaysia in the 19th century by immigrant Indian estate workers, reflects a growing faith in the Hindu god’s power to bless devotees with children and cure serious illnesses.
Thaipusam is no longer widely celebrated in India but in Malaysia the festival has gone beyond the ethnic Indian community that is less than a tenth of the country’s 28 million people, Reuters writes.
Last year, over one million people of different ethnic backgrounds trekked up to Batu Caves temple to repay the god for granting requests as diverse as achieving top marks in exams and bagging a new job to resolving family feuds.
Many balanced brass pots of milk on their heads while others carried wooden floats, or kavadi, decorated with the peacock feathers and spears that symbolize the deity.
The bigger the requests, the more elaborate the ritual offerings. For recovering from a serious illness or surviving a serious accident, some devotees will pierce their bodies with hooks holding oranges, lemons and apples.