Today is Thaipusam. A festival of great importance for hindus in Singapore and Malaysia...note I've not mentioned India. Yes, until I came to Singapore, I had not known much about Thaipusam. We didn't have any special pooja's or fasting on this day back home. Infact most of the time this day would just be another day on the calendar.
But in Singapore its quite different. Thaipusam is an important festival for the Hindus here. On this day, people carry kavadi and karagam attached to their body, while some have the Vel pierced through their tongue and cheeks. The procession is 4 kms long, stretching from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road to the Sri Thandayuthapani temple in Tank Road. This festival might seem strange to Westeners and other communities and so manages to be a crowd puller. Large number of tourists border the road where the procession is held trying to catch the various forms of worship in their camera.
Now coming to some details on what is Thaipusam.
Thaipusam is celebrated on the full moon day of the 10th month (thai) of the Tamil Calendar. It is celebrated in the honor of Lord Muruga the second son of Lord Shiva. Devotees maintain month long fast to get ready for the penance. On the day of thaipusam, the devotees fast and get ready for the Kavadi and the piercing. This is done to fulfill a vow for a granted favour or as part of the eradication of sins done before.
PS: We too have started having a special pooja on the Thaipusam day nowadays.