Thursday 29th February 2024,
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Video : Former Australian diplomat gets tounge and cheeks pierced during Thaipusam Festival

Video : Former Australian diplomat gets tounge and cheeks pierced during Thaipusam Festival

It is the festival that honours the Hindu god Muruga and involves devotees piercing their tongues, cheeks and even wearing hooks embedded in their backs.

And joining the locals in Malaysia for the Thaipusam Festival was an Australian former diplomat, who for the first time decided to take part in the painful rituals that make up the colourful event.

Carl Vadivella Belle, 64, joined more than a million Hindus who throng temples throughout Malaysia for the celebration, dancing to music, carrying heavy decorated frames that can weigh up to 220lbs as penance and piercing their bodies.

The devotee, from Adelaide, has spent 20 years attending the festival, but for the first time decided to join locals in having skewers put through his cheeks and tongue and carry and elaborate ‘kavadi’ frames decorated with peacock feathers.

It was during a four-year stint at the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur that Carl developed an interest in Hinduism, so he returned to the Malaysian capital with 1.6million others to visit the iconic Batu Caves.

The Australian, who lived on a farm with his wife Wendy, had to fast for 48 days before the festival began, with no alcohol, meat, TV or sex – and he slept on a bare floor.
‘He is the only white man who does the kavadi and has a huge popularity with Indians as they admire him,’ said Lafforgue. Before the ceremony Carl prayed with the priests, so he could get into a trance-like state before receiving his piercings.

Carl walks barefoot through the streets on hot tarmac, along with supporters and other people carrying kavadis. Some design their kavadis with peacock feathers, as Muruga often used these. Others prefer to decorate theirs with flowers or photos of Muruga

Thousands of people flock to Thaipusam ceremonies during the Tamil month of Thai (January/February) across Southeast Asia. 

‘Pusam’ means star in Tamil. As well as Malaysia, Thaipusam is also celebrated in countries with a large Tamil population, including Sri Lanka, Guadeloupe, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. 

After praying, Carl waited to be pierced, telling photographer Lafforgue he wasn’t afraid of the needle, which slices through the flesh of the cheeks and tongue. 

‘He is not afraid of the pain of the hooks and the needles, his spirit is above pain in the trance,’ explained Lafforgue.

‘Even if Carl was told there would be no pain thanks to his fasting, it is hard to believe it, looking at his face. Carl could not speak as he has a needle in his tongue but I felt he was really in another world.’

When Carl converted to Hinduism, his wife and three children followed suit.

The former diplomat explained that his most significant kavadi procession was his third, in the 1980s, during which he prayed for his mother-in-law who was very ill with cancer. She lived for another six years afterwards, and was fit enough to travel all over the world. Carl believes that it was the god Muruga who saved her.

The word kavadi also refers to this metal and wooden structure, which Carl must carry through the streets as part of the festival. It is meant to signify a heavy burden, and can be painful to carry under the hot Malaysian sun. Carl rents the kavadi for $150 USD

The pain isn't quite over though - Carl is adorned with chains that are hooked onto his back and chest before he is ready to put on the kavadi

Australian football fan and Hindu Carl Vadivella Belle receiving a tongue and cheek piercing during the Hindu Thaipusam festival in Malaysia

Carl fasted for 48 days before the festival, and abstained from alcohol, meat, TV and sex. He even slept on a bare floor

Carl and other onlookers watch another man involved in the ceremony, in a state of trance, with a huge metal bar going through his cheeks

Carl dons his kavadi, which is decorated exactly as he wants. A kavadi usually weighs between 20 and 40 kilograms, depending on the design

Carl walks with his kavadi without shoes. Here, he has stopped for people to massage his feet and pour water onto his legs 

As he waits his turn to be pierced, Carl watches and holds onto the needle that priest will use to pierce his tongue and cheek

Carl changed his name to Vadivella Belle in the 1980s, after his third kavadi procession, which he believes saved his mother-in-law from cancer

Courtesy Daily  Mail



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