It is a Hindu festival dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is pretty similar to Lent in Christianity or Ramadan in Islamic…well just the fasting part. People give up food and fast saltless, full fast, or South African Indians give up non veg food for a couple of weeks and they carry Kavady. Kavady is a wooden structure that contains a metal bar at the top for decoration with flowers and leaves (preferably marigold flowers and Slinga berry leaves) and 3 wooden dowel sticks for inserting lime or lemon. Here is a photo taken at the Midrand Temple, RSA. The credit goes to the photographer my hubby.
Hundreds of un-decorated kavadies
A decorated kavady, with a vel, for your view
You can see different sizes of kavady above. There are all kinds of sizes for different age groups. The reason for carrying this Kavady is to cleanse the sins that we have consciously or unconsciously committed in the past. People go to the extremes of piercing their bodies with vel (spear). Vel is a spear that Lord Muruga has in his hands.
This year it was a fifteen day festival. On the first day the flag goes up in the famous temples of Lord Muruga in India (Arupadai veedu) and all over the world. The flag comes down on the last day of the festival. This festival takes place twice a year, usually in the months of Jan/Feb or April/May, Thai and Chithirai. Depends on the moon phases and how or when the Tamil months fall.
As I mentioned above Arupadai veedu is the 6 famous Murugan temples in India and they are:
You might be thinking why do a God hold a destructive object in his hands?? THE SPEAR!!
Well, there are always deep and intricate significances in each aspect of the Hindu scripture. The vel as you see in the above photo of Lord Muruga or in any spear it is made up of a long rod with a leaf like head. The top sharp point depicts that one should have SHARP knowledge, broader circumference stands for a BROAD mind and a long deep rod stands for DEEP love.
Thus a person with a sharp knowledge, broad mind and has a deep heart is equavalent to being a God. Obviously us human beings have our default faults but they can be purified by carrying Kavady, observing the daily prayers and bringing the mind under a strict control by fasting.
A beautifully decorated chariot of Lord Muruga and his consorts at the Midrand Temple