Painted from a photograph of a young devotee during Thaipusam, one of the most intense festivals seen in Penang.
Thaipusam is a festival celebrated by the Tamil Hindu community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February), usually coinciding with Pushya star, known as Poosam in Tamil
The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel "spear" so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman and his brothers.
Preparations for Thaipusam start months in advance. But the conditioning of the body and mind is done about a week before the festival itself.
Devotees prepare themselves spiritually with extensive prayer and fasting before performing acts of penance or thanksgiving like carrying a kavadi. The basic kavadi consists of a short wooden pole surmounted by a wooden arch, decorated with peacock feathers (symbolic of Murugan, as the peacock is his mascot), margosa leaves and other materials. Often, sharp skewers are pierced through the tongues, cheeks and bodies of kavadi-bearers as a practice of self-mortification.