Part of what makes the human race unique from the rest of the animal kingdom is our practice and adherence to rituals. Nature often works in very logical ways, so when a human being purposefully walks across burning coals with bare feet… something appears to be amiss. However, that same person could likely tell you the exact purpose for which he or she walked across those coals. Rituals appeal to an emotional sense beyond the explanation of logic – they are the vehicles through which people derive meaning from life every day. Sometimes it is an effort to connect with a more spiritual part of the brain. This could mean intentional infliction of pain or suffering, proven methods of altering one’s state of consciousness. Other times a ritual is practiced to simply keep oneself connected with tradition and family practices. Regardless of the ritual type, the primary function is to provide some type of fulfillment. The following bizarre rituals might appear entirely unorthodox and foreign to you, but it is important to remember the significance they hold in their respective cultures.
Festivals are one of the most common types of human ritual, and Thaipusam is one of the most intriguing in that category. It celebrates the vanquishing of evil demon Soorapadman by Murugan with a spear given to him by Parvati – an event remembered during the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February).
The preparation for Thaipusam is just as extreme as the festival itself, with devotees beginning to fast 48 days before the event. During this period they take food only once per day, and only pure, Satvik food at that.
On the day of the festival, many acts of devotion are undertaken including body disfigurements, piercings, and shaving of heads. Many pierce a small spear through their own tongue in honor of the slaying of Soorapadman.