Another long post, but I don’t fill like splitting this story up, hey that’s my third post about Thaipusam this year.
On arriving at Farrer park MRT, we met our first Kavadi bearer.
And then more devotees waiting for the traffic light.
The little devotees
Then when moving inside the temple the devotees are assembling the Kavadis
or prepare their offerings
While others use their phones to snap their friends.
Pictures above are taken Ilford HP5 shot at box speed, I used not to be a big fan of this film, but actually I am very satisfied with these results. The pictures after are done with the Kodak TMY 400, not exactly my usual Tri-X, but i generally quite like it.
Actually I don’t see any difference, so I may shoot more of the cheaper HP5 going forward.
Still osculating but looking more steady.
All shots with Leica M6 Classic and most of them with the Summicron 35mm F2 AsphvII (the last version), processed at the usual lab (well dropped at Ruby and they get the usual guy do the work) and scanned at home with the Epson v800.
As per my recent post Saturday was Thaipusam ; Thaipusam is a Hindu ceremony to honor the lord Ram. In Singapore devotee carry burdens and pierce their flesh and walk a 4 km procession to thank the god or ask for a wish to be granted. Most devotees do it every year.I was loosely leading a small group of buddy photographers this year as Thaipusam is a great photography opportunity. Participants are very open, there are colors, action and emotions.
The procession has started at 7pm last night, and when we get at Farrer park MRT devotees are already walking along Sernagoon road, pulling or carrying their burden.
The most interesting part for me is getting inside the temple and assisting to the preparations.
The devotee above will carry a Kavadi.
The preparation starts with offerings as above.
Kavadi carriers often have chains or pots attached to their flesh , or spears as below.
Other devotees like the group below are carrying posts of milk along the pilgrimage road,
This guys is fainting of having trance.
This is the second year I see the man below.
After the Kavadi is set-up the cheeks and tong are pierced.
You can see fire, smoke and photographers (my friend Matte above)
Each devotee is accompanied by friends and family, giving a warm atmosphere of community, support, friendship.
On the way out many of the Kavadi bearers will dance before leaving the temple. This is a very impressive feat, I tried to capture this using a slow shutter speed.
The group below is one of the two groups of Chinese devotees I met over the years.
I was able to show them a picture of 2013.
Below is the other Chinese Kavadi bearer.
Thaipusam is a great opportunity to take pictures of members of the public as below.
Finally I got to Tank road temple for a few last picture. This is a great place to see the devotees getting rid of their Kavadi and piercings.
And for a final picture this man finally arrived looking grateful to his big friend (very big) who is taking care of him.
All these shots with Leica M262 and either Summilux 50mm v2, Summicron 35mm Asph v2, Elmarit 90mm F2.8 Oh I also had the M6 body and shot 2 rolls ; be ready for another post next week.
I am by no means a specialist of Hindu religion, so please forgive any mistakes, I am happy to be corrected. This is a a small guide for fellow shutterbugs on what to expect on next Thaipusan day.
This year Thaipusam falls on 8th of February, it is a Saturday so there is no excuse for not going out and shoot ; and Thaipusam offers many different photo opportunities.
The eve of Thaipusam, on the Friday, the Chariot of the temple will take Lord Murugan for a day’s visit to his brother Lord Vinayagar at Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik Road. Along the route, he stops at several places, including Sri Mariamman temple on South Bridge Road (Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple), to greet the goddess within, a manifestation of his mother. He then continues on to see his brother.
The Chariot leaves around 6pm and comes back around 9pm ; then it is parked in front of Tank road temple and visited by many devotees. Later in the night starts the Thaipusam procession : devotees start from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (Serangoon Road aka SSPT) at 11.30pm.
Doors at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (Tank Road aka STT) will open at 12.01am on 08/02/2020. You can enter the back of the temple and watch the priests opening the inner shrine, and then let the devotees came in and receive their blessings. The activity is quite low around that time but it gets busier around 2am.
Devotees will keep on leaving the Serangoon Garden temple until midnight on Saturday. My usual routine is to reach Serangoon Road temple before 8am. The sun is still very low and and the light inside the temple is dim. The temple and the nearby parking area are used to set-up the kavadis of the devotees and prepare themselves for the procession. Groups are constantly setting up, so no pressure to shoot. All of this happens under canopies to the light can be tricky.
You can follow one group all the way to Tank Road, or walk a bit faster and move from group to group. Beware, when you reach Clemenceau Avenue, the only way to get inside the temple is to queue with the devotees until you reach the temple. I never did it 10 years, but if you do you will be able to enter the temple by the front door.
If you are not that brave enough, you can walk along the queue of the devotees and arrive at the back of the temple. Where you can see devotees exiting the temple then arriving at the rest are and disassembling the Kavadis. Moments of rest and relief.
Finally if you go on the path of the procession at night you will see lighted-up kavadis!
I have no idea of what happens at both temples after the last devotee leaves or arrives
So plan for a great day : you can shoot from Friday 6pm to Midnight on Saturday.
A few advises:
The Chariot procession can be fun, especially if you spot it in town or upon its return to Tank Road. But chasing it may be complicated.
The evening when the temple at Tank road open is interesting, I have been two or three time, I may skip it this year
During the day I prefer going the morning like getting ready to shoot at 8am for a couple of hours
You can spent another hour at the disassembly area
Practical: the places will be busy, many visitors attend all stages of the event, and many buddy photographers, hot (but I never felt the need to bring water), and yo have to leave your shoes outside of the temples (I don’t mind, but you can also bring flip flops and put them in your bag)
Technical stuff:I shot with DSLR (from 17 to 200 mm), SLR, Leica film and digital and the Hasselblad. This is a busy event, so you don’t have much time to fiddle around. Last year I shot only with 35 and 50mm, with a couple of shots on 28. With 28 and 35 you get a lot of “noise” in the frame, maybe something around 80mm would be nice if you want to shoot portrait or the actual moment piercings are performed (I am a bit less interested in this now). People are super friendly but I avoid to be too a nuisance and to thrust your camera in people face, show some respect.
For film:I used 400 ISO for B&W in the temple in the morning , for the night events I used 3200 Kodak TMZ or Ilford Delta and Cinestill 800.
Nearly one year ago, in January, I went to Tank road in the middle of the night to shoot a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple for the Thaipusam ceremony.
Thaipusam is a Tamil Hindu ceremony where devotees walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to the temple in Tank road.
It is interesting to shoot the ceremony at both temples ; at Little India where they start the pilgrimage or here where they finish it.
I favor the little India location early in the morning ; it is already very busy, but manageable. But for a couple of years I go to Tank Road in the evening before ; it is general quiet, the action (if I can say so) is more subdued. Pilgrims flow through the temple, receive blessings and walk out.
At the back of the temple is a resting aera and pilgrim receive tea and nibbles.
This year I tried a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 with the Leica M6 and the Summicron 50mm version 5. The result is quite nice, the M6 does a good job once again, the light meter is working very well once again.
I rarely shot the Ilford 3200, but must say the result is quite good. The grain is nice but controlled, the contrast is good. As I said somewhere else I think high ISO film give good results if you scene has a minimum of contrast.
These were shot around 11pm, on the first evening, it is very quite just when the priest open the inner sanctum of the temple. Alternatively, you can come around on the next day and take pictures from pilgrims disassembling their Kavadis.
The inside on the temple of the day itself is over crowed and their is no shortcut, you have to follow the devotees from Penang road, I am not sure how long it will take. Surely a great experience, but you will need a good couple of hours.
Get ready I have 2 or 3 rolls of TRIX that I shoot the next day.
Get ready, this year the Thaipusam procession is expected to start from SSPT on 07/02/2020 from 11.30pm.
So what happened since the March Photowalk? No pictures ? Well a bit of the contrary, I have been in a film frenzy and I now average 2 rolls a week, but then this takes a lot of time to process and there is little time left to put this us in a post. Also of course has there’s been a bit of travelling, but that will be for other posts…
So at the week after the March photowalk, on a Wednesday morning, was the celebration of Panguni.
Panguni is a Hindu celebration similar to Thaipusam (you can see my post for this year here). In Singapore it is held two lunar months after Thaipusam, in the Yishun area, at the Holy Tree Sri Balasubramaniar Temple.
Like Thaipusam it involves body piercing, carrying Kavadis, music, friends and family support.
It is always amazing from the outside to see people going through this ritual. But you can also find some laughter there.
Panguni is a lot smmaller celebration that Thaipusam and it is less crowded. A lot less photographers and onlokers as well. Some of the people I spoke to pput the emphasis on the local dimension of the ceremony.
Pictures are done with Leica M4 and M6, with Summaron 35F2.8 and Summilux 50F1.4v2, using Kodak Tri-X. I also shot some colours pics but they did not make it through the selection.
All pictures below taken with Nikon D700, Nikkor 85mmF1.8D and 17-35mmF2.8. The place in Serangoon road does not have a very good light; it’s very dark prior to 9am; after this there is too much light coming from the side of the area as it had no walls (Appart when you are within the temple)
On Thaipusam afternoon I brough the Nikon F3 + 50F1.4 AIS loaded with a roll of Ilford 400 PAN. The results were not that great. We went to Tank Road were people finish the pilgrimage, chill out and dissemble the kavadis.
My favourite picture is probably the following , where the guy in the middle have someone remove the spike that goes through both his cheeks.
On the last shot below the Chinese pilgrims I met the morning have finished and pose for a group shot.
To my question “How do you feel?” their answer was “Happier”.
The wheel of time made another full circle and the Hindu festival of Thaipusam is back again. as it is based on the lunar calendar it falls on a Sunday this year which is just great for having a look and taking pictures.
I wrote in the past about Thaipusam and you can find on Wikipedia some information about the meaning of the the celebration. Let’s just say that in Singapore it is a 4 km pilgrimage between Serangoon Road (in little India) to Tank Road, that devotees walk to thank the gods or to ask them for a favor (and then they will do it the following years to thank them). Pilgrims generally carry burdens, from simple pots of milks to heavy Kavadis. The most spectacular aspect of Thaipusam is that the Kavadis often pierce into the bearer’s flesh, but also some other piercing rituals are performed.
Beyond this, Thaipusam is a great opportunity to actually see faith in action. Apart from photography I am looking forward to this event for its atmosphere and just being there. A lot of spectators attend the event, and in Singapore it is a big photography circus.
The event follows generally this schedule:
– the day before, the Silver Chariot carrying a statue of the god, is traveled in town and comes back in the Tank Road temple, where people gather to pray.
– very early in the day itself, devotees go to the Serangoon road temple where they prepare themselves before the pilgrimage, involving the complex construction of Kavadis
– the pilgrimage itself is a 4 km walk to tank Road, Kavadi bearer dance to the sound of music and are supported by relatives
– In Tank Road, pilgrims go inside the temple to ge the blessing
– outside the temple is the area where Kavadis are disassembles and pikes removed from chicks, tongues, and other body part.
This year i was lucky enough to be able to go to Tank Road on the Saturday, then in the Sunday morning to see the first Kavadis being disassembled, then to Serangoon Road and then back to Tank road in the afternoon.
Serangoon road, between 8 and 10 AM is the best spot for me. Nicer atmosphere, enough light, same photographers I see every year.
This year I brought the Hasselblad and these are the Hassie shots you see with this post. It’s not so easy to shot moving people, but I think the keeper ratio for the 2 rolls is fantastic. I used some Rollei RPX 400 ASA film which I find also just great, the grain is so thin.
I also carried the D700 with a couple of lenses, that will be for the next post.
Here we are, January again and it’s Thaipusam again, the big Indian festival in Singapore. Devotees walking 4km wearing offerings, some with piercings in their bodies, some wearing structures called Kavadi.
Thaipusam is a great opportunity for photography and there are loads of photogs at the departure of the festival; amazing deployment of hardware. I love Thaipusam, for its atmosphere, sense of togetherness or the people participating. Can’t wait until next year. Thaipusam date if fixed by Hindu authorities and may not not on the most easy day for me to go though, this year I just went 2 hours from 7am after a sleepless night at work.
My recommendation: go at tank road in the middle of the night, to see the first devotees arriving at the temple, get some sleep. Be at Serangoon road about 8am for sunrise and stay a few hours in the temple to follow the devotees preparations. Go back in the evening to follow the procession at night, there are amazing Kavadis with lights!