But why do those Asian people mutilate their bodies through their rituals? For the same reasons that you kiss the God statues when you go to church, as an Orthodox.
The cultures of others seem strange when the starting point is your own culture. The strangest ones are the farthest ones and the only “contact” with them is through the media channels. My opinion becomes an opinion of some opinions that are presented in a subjective way.
Thaipusam, a painful Hindu festival
I was in Kuala Lumpur at the beginning of the year during the Hindu holidays, for Thaipusam, when they celebrate the harvest by bringing offerings to the gods at the temples.
A physical and mental cleansing
Those who decide to take part in the ceremony will show their gratitude in various ways. Most bring milk jugs to the temples, walking long distances barefoot. The boldest choose to hold a rather strict fasting, between 7 and 48 days, living in temples during all this time. The day begins at 4 in the morning when they are only allowed to wash with turmeric and water, without any soap or shampoo. They get dressed in a plain sheet and are not allowed to look in the mirror. After the prayers, they will eat a small breakfast. The food has no spices, it’s only steamed and it’s served in small quantities with a few fruits aside. During the fasting, they volunteer for the whole day in places they choose. The second meal is only at 19 o’clock, and until then they are not even allowed water. After dinner, they meditate and do yoga. At night they all sleep together on the temple’s floor, covered only with a blanket.
Painful offerings brought to the gods
The purpose of fasting is to return to their origins and it helps them become more modest, more well-balanced, more selfless; It’s a mental and physical cleansing. The body can resist stress more easily, or even not bleed when it is injured. The “fire test” is when they hung in sharp hooks different objects on their skin, on the day of celebration. They manage to enter into a stage of meditation, in which the pain caused by needles does not have the same intensity.
As in any religion, the holidays end up losing their meaning or are misinterpreted. For Thaipusam, they should show their gratitude in general, not just in the event of fulfilling the desires they have demanded from the gods. And of those who choose to fast, not all respect the whole process, reason why they need help to fulfil the task of getting to the temple. It was my first time I went to an event like this and, I managed to notice by myself that some people were begging for attention through the noise they were making, and I do not think that’s the purpose. I think it should be an intimate thing between you and your God, not between you and the admiration of others.
Another custom that has lost its significance are the clothes embedded in the turmeric. The world now dresses in all-ready made yellow clothes and they don’t know why; they do it because that’s the tradition. A few know that the turmeric was used in the past for its anti-bacterial properties and its medicinal properties.
We should judge less …
It is a beautiful celebration and I admire their devotion. We (the Orthodox Romanians) are lazy to go to church Sunday even to light a candle. If they would ask us to go barefoot, we would become atheists. But of course, everyone has his reasons for doing it after all.
It is easy to judge in the light of our own beliefs, but it doesn’t mean that it is fair to do so either. For sure we are also looked at weird that we make a type of cake just at the funerals and that we organise big dinners where we give for free food so the dead person can eat on the other side too.
We should be more open-minded and judge less.