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Thaipusam Festival: Pierced people carry pots of milk on their heads.

05 April 2012 / All photos: ANP /

Thai Poosam is a Hindu religious festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community all over the world on the full moon in Tamil month of Thai dedicated to Hindu deity Lord Murugan. On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of 'kavadi' or 'burdens'. At its simplest this may entail carrying a pot of milk, but mortification of the flesh by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks is also common.

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An Indian Tamil Hindu devotee with a steel rod pierced through his tongue pulls Lord Murugan's chariot during a religious procession in New Delhi on April 5, 2012

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An Indian woman runs on burning coals while carrying a pot of milk as a ritual during the Thaipoosam festival celebrations in Chennai, India

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An Indian woman (R) offers prayers as a Tamil Hindu devotee pulls Lord Murugan's chariot with hooks attached to his back during a religious procession in New Delhi

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An Indian Tamil Hindu devotee with a steel rod pierced through his cheeks takes part in a religious procession for Lord Murugan in New Delhi

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An Indian men hold a Tamil Hindu devotee (C) as he goes in state of trance after a steel rod was pierced through his cheeks

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An Indian Tamil Hindu devotee with lemons attached to his body with hooks takes part in a religious procession in New Delhi on April 5, 2012.

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An Indian Tamil Hindu devotee with a steel rod pierced through her tongue

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A Malaysian Hindu devotee pulls a chariot with ropes hooked onto his back during the Thaipusam festival in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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group of Malaysian Hindu devotees gather around the chariot that carries a Lord Murugan's statue during a procession on the eve of Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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A Hindu devotee carries a iron structure made of 64 rods piercing his chest during a religious ceremony in Madras