Thaipusam / LoRa Photography

2016© LoRa Photography

More than a million Hindus thronged temples throughout Malaysia to celebrate Thaipusam, a colourful annual religious festival in which many display their devotion by piercing their bodies with hooks and skewers.

Celebrations in the capital Kuala Lumpur centred, as they have for 125 years, on the spectacular Batu Caves complex on the city’s outskirts, which many Hindus walked up to ten hours to reach in an annual pilgrimage.

Bearing gifts for the deity Murugan, countless yellow-robed devotees carried milk pots or coconuts – the latter of which are smashed as offerings

Many show their fervour by bearing the elaborately decorated frames called “kavadi” that can weigh as much as 100 kg (220 lbs) and are typically affixed to a person’s body using sharp metal spikes dug into their flesh in a form of penance.

Thaipusam commemorates the day when, according to Hindu mythology, the goddess Pavarthi gave her son Lord Murugan a lance to slay evil demons.

Prior to Thaipusam, devotees will typically hold daily prayer sessions, abstain from sex and stick to a strict vegetarian diet for weeks
Many stalls sprouted outside the caves where visitors could have their heads shaved bald, another form of thanksgiving.