Why Devotees Pierce Their Body.
You may have seen images of Hindu devotees fearlessly piercing their faces or dragging sleds attached to their bodies with hooks, but exactly what is Thaipusam? And why do they pierce their bodies?
Thaipusam (sometimes also spelled as it is pronounced, "Thaipoosam") is a frenetic festival celebrated by Hindu Tamils to honor Lord Murgan — the Hindu god of war and a son of Shiva.
During Thaipusam, Lord Murugan is showered with gratitude and gifts of devotion for prayers answered. Not everyone pierces their bodies or bears painful kavadis (burdens), but the ones who do create quite a spectacle. Face and tongue piercing are common, as are other forms of self mutilation.
Some sects argue that Thaipusam is for celebrating Lord Murugan's birthday, while others claim the birthday to be in May or June during the Vaikhasi month. Regardless, Thaipusam commemorates Lord Murugan's gift of a vel (spear) from his mother, Parvati, the Hindu goddess of love and fertility. Frenzied participants shout "vel! vel! vel!" above the drumming in the procession.