Interview with a Kavadi bearer

By Yoong Khean

After the hectic celebrations, I managed to catch up with a friend that coincidentally was a kavadi bearer. I had so many burning questions I wanted to ask so I requested an interview with him.

YK: What is the significance of carrying a kavadi?

This one is a simple question. A person carries a kavadi when a vow is fulfilled. Any vow like for good health of themselves or somebody elses. Some people carry the kavadi for other people who are unable to carry the kavadi themselves, for instance ill people.

YK: Please explain briefly the preparation needed to carry a kavadi?

This truly depends on the individual carrying the kavadi. For instance, some people start fasting 48 days before Thaipusam, and some one week before Thaipusam. I start, usually 1-2 days after the calander New Year i.e. Jan 2nd or 3rd. The first two weeks of fasting for me is usually vegetarian food, followed by the 2 weeks of fasting with only one meal aday, usually dinner, and the last 2 weeks I take food in between days. When I say pure veg, I mean pure. Even the containers used to cook the food must not have been in contact with meat previously. Most people have a set of cookin utensils specifically for these occasions. The bearer usually sleeps on the floor during the duration of fasting.
The basic aim of fasting is to keep God close to the heart and holding back the tongue. That means, no cursing and swearing, no sexual relations, etc.

YK: Tell us the journey from the moment you carried the kavadi till you took it down. The feeling, thoughts and experiences particularly.

Better to start from the temple I guess. For the past few years I ve been carrying the kavadi, I cant control when I go in to the trance. As soon as I step foot into the temple (not batu caves, as in the temple where I start carrying the kavadi), I go in to a trance. Based on the aggressiveness, and the twisting of the misai, I think it is a God named Muneswaran.
Feelings? Hard to describe it I guess. I feel very powerful, as if there s no one who can stop me. I also feel arrogant, but that’s a characteristic of the God I’m in trance in. When u carry a kavadi, as in walkin on the road bare footed, u don’t feel the small stones and pebbles piercing your feet. How I know this? Cause when I was dancing, I didn’t feel a thing, but on the way back… it hurts.
Thoughts – just one. To go up to Batu Caves. It’s like there’s a calling willing you up the stairs…
Experience. I think there’s one in particular. This year when I was carrying the kavadi, there was this man who fell at my feet asking for my blessing. At that point I was a bit aware of what was going on, and I was quite offended by that. I mean, I am no God and here we have this man asking for my blessings, when there is so many temples around… This was later cleared by my brother, who said the guy was drunk.

YK: Why did you decided to carry a kavadi?

Initially, when I was 8-9 I just decided to do it. No reason in particular but for this year and the next 2 years, I’m doing it for a vow I took for my father. He passed away in 2002, and since I was away in Manipal, India, I couldn’t do it there.

YK: What did you gain from this experience?

Inner satisfaction. Definitely. My penance, I feel, was accepted by the Lord, and he granted me the strength to carry the kavadi with out any major hurdles. Also this year was extra special for me cause it was the first time I did the body piercings and also the first time I had an urumee melam group (the musical band)

YK: I gotta ask this, did it hurt? If no, why? If yes, how did you shut your mind from the pain?

When you mean hurt, you think about steel through flesh, and well, yes, you think pain. But what I felt was an ant bite on my cheeks, and an occasional pinch on my back. It doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like, and well, I cant compare it to piercing when not in a trance.
I have a scientific reason for the lack of pain and bleedin, but that’s just my theory. I think, the blood pressure goes down. That it self is a good enough reason. Also, when the hooks are in the body, and you dance, the pull causes the release of endorphins, the bodies own pain killers. But then again, what do I know? Shutting the mind from the pain – think of God. I did that, and also squeezed lime in my mouth. Don’t ask me why I did that.

YK: Lastly, would you do it again?

Next year. Same time same place. You can come along to take some photographs if u want.

YK: You bet I will. Thank you very much for your time.

Note Kavadinfo:

I would like to thank Yoong Khean for sharing his interview and photos with our blog.
Take a look at Yoong Khean’s blog.


peco said...

Awesome,i saw this interview some time ago,and its a awesome article.Thanks to Sharing :)

Science, Reason and Rationality said...

This video will give you a better explanation:

India Miracles Debunked

There's no one who could stab spears or trident right into the stomach all the way through until it comes out at the back. Also, no one can stab sharp objects all the way into the heart. If anyone lives, I will believe there is a possibility of a supernatural power if the person has not evolved into a superhuman species capable of rapid self-healing already.

Stabbing sharp items into ones body in a hypnotic state based on a certain belief may not be so painful and may be not painful at all, especially when the targeted area has the least amount of nerves than can sense pain. I challenge anyone who can stab themselves as I have suggested above to make me a believer.

Even the Sufi's stab knifes into their heads in the religious rituals, but still it is never all the way into their brains. All I can see is nothing but illusions for the mind which actually can be done by anyone without thinking they are in some kind of trance and whatnot... ;-)

Sufi Bizarre Religious Ritual