Foreigners who take Kavadi at the Batu Caves



The Thaipusam festival at the Batu Caves in Malaysia attracts more than a million people each year. The greatest offering to Lord Muruga is Kavadi. And don’t be surprised if you find foreigners taking Kavadi here. Australian Carl Vedivella Belle has been taking Kavadi for more than a decade. This year he will be joined by German Rainer Krieg, who took his first Kavadi in the 70s.

Carl Vedivella Belle has a doctorate in Hindu religion and the topic is ‘Thaipusam in Malaysia: A Hindu Festival Misunderstood?’ Carl Vedivella Belle is the vice-president of the Hindu Society of South Australia. He was also appointed Hindu Chaplain at Flinders University in Adelaide.

So how was their experience while taking Kavadi?

New Straits Times Malaysia reports

Belle has carried the kavadi 15 times since 1982 and described the experience as "very spiritually transforming".

For Krieg the experience "was out of this world".

"When you’re in a trance, you’re in another level altogether and connect with a higher self."

Talking to BBC World Service Carl Vedivella Belle reveals more about his experience during Thaipusam and on Hinduism

"One of the things that attracted me to Thaipusam was the incredible energy waves... kavadi worshippers seem to radiate this incredible ecstasy that I've never experienced in religious life in any other real context.

"And it is something incredibly special that people are prepared to make this commitment to trust a god to take care of their bodies and their welfare in such a quite dramatic way. It's a very dramatic statement to make, if you like, in their belief in the deity."

"I'm more aware of Murugan as a deity during this trance period at Thaipusam than at any other particular time.

"...skeptics have tried to reduce this to some sort of psychosis or something like that, but it's far more than that.

"I've tried to study it objectively, but there comes a point where logic has to give way to something which is perhaps deeper and more individual, and this is one of the things about Hinduism: it is what I experience, it is real. I cannot explain it to other people in any greater terms than the ecstasy that I feel.

"Hindus believe that each soul has the spark of the divine within, so in actual fact in one way it's a journey outside but it's also a journey inside...so you're in immediate contact with the divine for maybe a short blissful period while you're actually carrying this kavadi.

"It's a path towards the ultimate goal of Hinduism which is realization... While you're in this state of trance you're in a state of divine communion and that imposes this feeling of ecstasy upon you which makes you aware of your ultimate objective.

"And of course when you're removed from the trance it also makes you aware of how far you are from your ultimate objective."

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