A religious festival of purification, the Thaïpoosam Cavadee is celebrated by the Tamil community. This celebration takes place in January or early February and ends ten days of sacrifice, fasting and abstinence in purification of body and soul.
This celebration is held in honor of the god Muruga who is the last son of Shiva and Shakti. He is the god of love, youth, beauty and compassion. The legend tells that the wise Agattyar had ordered Idumban to bring him the two peaks of Mount Kaïlash. On his way Idumban met Muruga and they fought. Muruga pierced Idumban with his spear, but very impressed by his bravery, he resuscitated him. Muruga then declared that anyone who showed the same determination would get his blessing. His Vel, the spear with which he defeated evil, is symbolized by the needles with which devotees pierce each other, and the Cavadee, a wooden and bamboo structure, symbolizes Idemban’s journey carrying the two peaks of the mountain hanging from a stick.
For the celebration, the Cavadee is decorated with peacock feathers, religious statuettes, fruits and flowers, and containers of milk are hung on the structure. On the day of the festival, pilgrims go to the temple and then leave in procession to the nearest watering hole to take a sacred bath. The devotees who wear the Cavadee are those who want to atone for their sins by suffering or those who want to show their fervor to the god Muruga. They pierce their cheeks, tongue or back with needles or hooks in order to obtain forgiveness and purification. After the sacred bath, the pilgrims cross the village praying, singing and dancing and in doing so enter into a kind of trance. Back at the temple the prayers continue and the milk carried during the procession is poured on the Muruga statue. The needles and hooks are then removed.
It is customary to end the day by sharing a vegetarian dish, Arusuvai, which includes salty, bitter, sour, acidic and sweet flavors as a reminder that life, although made of ups and downs, can be harmonious.