Thaipusam, is a very famous festival in Tamil Nadu and signifies celebrates the victory of good over evil. It is believed that Goddess Parvati gave the 'Vel' (lance) to Lord Muruga on the Thaipusam day to vanquish the Asura (demon) army.
Thaipusam is observed on the Pusam star in the Tamil month of 'Thai' (January - February). Lord Muruga, son of Lord Shiva and Parvati, is also known as Skanda or Subrahamaniyan. He defeated Tarakasuran and other demons using the 'Vel.' This is why most images of Lord Muruga have him carrying the powerful 'Vel.'
This festival is also celebrated at the Batu Caves in Malaysia has become world famous. It is also celebrated with a lot of fervor in Singapore.
On the Thaipusam day, most devotees of Lord Murugan offer him fruits and flowers of yellow or orange color - his favorite colors and also adorn dresses of the same color. Many devotees bear milk, water, fruits and floral tributes on pails hung from a yoke and carry them on their shoulders to various Murugan temples, far and near.
This wooden or bamboo structure called 'Kavadi' is covered with cloth and decorated with feathers of peacock - the vehicle of Lord Murugan.
Some parents carry newborn babies slung in a cloth-cradle hung on a pole shouldered at both ends by the mother and the father as thanks for a safe birth. Others shave their heads bald as a symbol of humility and atonement.
Quite a few also observe a strict vegetarian diet for about 40 days and renounce all forms of comfort and pleasure-giving activities. The 40 days are spent in meditation and prayer.
Many devotees carry huge Kavadi, with sharp metal spikes and lots of hooks, which pierce into their body. Some wear shoes of nails or pulled along heavy shrines with religious images and iconology through hooks pierced into their torso.
There are also many who had sharp piercings through their face or fruits hanging from hooks pierced onto their chest. Through religious faith and trance, very little blood is shed and the devotees endure the pain to march a certain distance as a sacrifice to the gods.