Thaipusam 2011 Day 1

Thaipusam 2011 Day 1

The Trance

You might remember a couple years back I posted images from the Hindu celebration of Thaipusam that takes place here in Penang. Last year I was in Iraq and not able to cover it. But this year I am home with camera in hand. To get the full story on Thaipusam watch and read THIS and THIS from those older posts.

Today started slow with a silver chariot being wheeled slowly through the streets of Georgetown. But it ended with the full force of body piercing and spirit inhabitation. Quite frankly, it gave me the willies! Below is a series of images of a woman and the process she goes through to ready herself for her pilgrimage of Thaipusam. It is not for the faint of heart.

Click on the thumbnail to view full size.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Marco

    Fascinating to see the progression

  2. cfimages

    Nice work, and as Marco said, it’s fascinating to see the progression. I enjoyed photographing Thaipusam at Batu Caves last year, so I’m eager to see what else you have for us over the coming days.

  3. Matt Connors

    Wow! My cheeks hurt. Great vantage point Matt. That really must have been something to see.

  4. Matt Welsh

    Wow, that’s very interesting; I love the shot at the top…!

  5. Magda

    Great photos! I saw Thaipusam in Penang back in 2003 and it was amazing experience. It’s a bit freaky to look at those people with hooks in their back or swords in their mouth, but you can’t not admire them for their strong believes.

  6. Gabanpower

    demon takes control over the body?
    hhhhhhmmmmmm……… that doesnt make sense buddy

    • Matt Brandon

      What “doesn’t make sense”? It is not what we as spectator believe that matters in situations like these. The photos show and most of the captions tell what they believe. These are photos of faith and belief. Everyone I spoke with said these they get “fill”, “possessed” or “taken over” by a spirit. One local Tamil man was adamant that it was a “evil spirit” or “demon”. He explained that when the worshipers are screaming (often growling) or violent it “can not be the spirit of Murugan.” These are their words, not mine.

  7. Jere Judd

    Amazing series of shots.

  8. CathyTopping

    That first image is beautiful. The expression on her face is very moving.

  9. Chris Plante

    Has anybody ever gotten an infection from this ritual?

    • Jen

      Chris, when they take the hooks out it looks like a tiny mosquito bite. Amazing, really, and all the hooks are very clean. The devotees also wash before they begin. As a side note, they say that if any blood appears the ‘hookee’ hasn’t prepared properly. (Sorry for interjecting here, Matt… fab photographs… i went in KL this year, and I didn’t get such a genuine feeling as I did the past couple of years in Penang.)

  10. Rad Deverala

    She looks like the dancing devotee in your previous post. These images doesn’t just evoke visually but emotionally as well. I would like to experience a festival like this someday, know more about it, scare myself and see how long it would take for my knees to shake.

    • Unique Amazing

      It’s not really that scary I’d say, perhap’s I’ve been watching them all my life every year in Thaipusam.
      There are other rituals in this festival that may interest you; like tonsuring (shave head), breaking coconuts and etc. But truly, the symbolic representation and its reasoning is what fascinates me most about Thaipusam..

  11. Radek Kozak

    Fascinating and strong images

  12. Imran

    Excellent work Matt. In Singapore, the Thaipusam festival/procession happens only for a day, unlike in Malaysia. And it is not even a public holiday! My first experience taking images of this festival was in 2009 and I’ve not missed it since. It’s really an experience to learn about different cultures, religion and practices.

  13. Robynyates




  1. Around The Blogs | Taiwan Travel Photographers | Craig Ferguson Images - [...] Joe at Batu Caves just outside Kuala Lumpur. Check out Matt’s photos of the event on his blog here…

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