Each January or February Indians of Tamil origin parade through the streets with their tongues and cheeks pierced with spears or skewers in the devout and spectacular annual festival, Thaipoosam Cavadee. As a vow of devotion, or as penitence, participants also hang needles and hooks from their chests and backs, and carry a “cavadee” (burden) on their shoulders, typically a carved wooden canopy decorated with flowers, fruits and photographs of saints, with a pot of purifying milk hung from each end. Despite the heat at this time of year, the milk must not be curdled when it arrives at the temple to be offered to Lord Muruga, the main Tamil god. Throngs of women and children accompany the men, dressed in bright pink and also bearing pots of milk. If any blood is spilled during the piercing, or the milk is sour, it means that the ten days of fasting, celibacy and prayers have not been done properly. Cavadee can be seen at temples island-wide, though the best place to see it is at Port Louis’ Kaylasson temple.

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