Thaipusam is an important festival observed by Hindus of South India during the Tamil month of Thai, that falls in January. This is a devout festival for the Hindu God Lord Subramanya/Murugan, the son of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. This day is a penance for several devotees who observe this day with rituals, ceremonial acts and fasts.
The days holds a special significance in Puranas when Parvati is believed to have given a spear to her son Lord Murugan to overpower the demon army of Tarakasura. Tarakasura was a wrath to the sages and saints. Hence, Shiva and Parvati sent Lord Murugan to put an end to all the misery. Lord Shiva gave eleven weapons and the twelfth weapon was given by Parvati. Lord Murugan succeeded in defeating Tarakasura on Pusam nakshatram that falls in the month of Thai, hence the name of the festival is Thaipusam.
Some people also believe that this day marks Murugan’s birthday as well. However, Vishakha star that falls in the month of Vaikasi during the month of May or June is considered as Murugan’s birthday.
Preparations for this important festival begin at least forty eight days ahead before the festival. Devotees make a vow to offer Kavadi(burden) on this day. A wooden structure usually made of bamboo is decorated with peacock feathers and is covered with cloth, which is carried by the devotees to the temple. Some Kavadi weigh more than 100 kgs. They lead a life of a celibate during this period. People also carry pots of milk on the head.
There is also a practice of piercing the tongue or cheeks with a small spear that reminds of Lord Subramanya. Kavadi bearers are expected to be devout before offering Kavadi to Murugan on this day.
Palani attracts thousands of Murugan devotees on this day who offer Kavadi. Murugan temples all over the world hold elaborate poojas and rituals to Lord Murugan. Most devotees offer yellow/orange colored cloth along with milk, fruits and flowers. Thaipusam is considered as a celebration of life and triumph of good over evil. People pray to God to recieve his blessings to destroy negativity and bad traits.