Thaipusam festival Singapore 2002
Thaipusam is the most dramatic Hindu festival.
Conventional wisdom is that it celebrates the day that the Goddess Parvathi gave her son Murugan the invincible vel (lance) to vanquish the evil asuras (demons) Soorpadman, Singamugam and Tarakasuran as well as their army of soldiers.
An alternative story is that one day, during the full moon of the Tamil month of 'Thai", Idumban, a devotee of Lord Subramaniam received a divine message to go to the hills to pay homage to the Lord. All the way to the shrine, Idumban sang hymns in praise of Lord Subramaniam to forget the weight he had to bear. Pleased with the devotion shown by Idumban, the Lord showered many blessings on him. Thaipusam commemmorates Idumban's devotion and it is believed that devotees carrying the kavadi will have their wishes granted. (Thanks to Singapore Hindu Endowment Board for advising of this story)
See also Thaipusam 2006