Hindu devotees in Malaysia are celebrating Thaipusam, a religious celebration dedicated to Lord Murugan, the god of war.

The annual celebrations take place on a grand scale at the Sri Subramaniar Swamy Temple inside the cavernous Batu Caves, north of Kuala Lumpur.

Devotees often pierce various parts of their body with silver skewers, and carry large contraptions known as Kavadi, thereby taking on a physical burden through which they beg for help from Murugan. Devotees also fulfill vows by carrying milk-filled pots up the stairs to the cave temple.

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A devotee, restrained with hooks pierced through his back, makes his way towards the Batu Caves templeMohd Rasfan/AFP
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A Hindu devotee pierced with bells is seen before his pilgrimage to the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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A Hindu devotee reacts after his cheek is pierced before starting his pilgrimage to the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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Hindu devotees go into a trance before heading to the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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A woman takes a ritual shower before starting her pilgrimage to the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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A child joins Hindu devotees heading towards the temple before sunriseMohd Rasfan/AFP
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A devotee carries a Kavadi towards the Batu Caves temple to make offerings before sunriseMohd Rasfan/AFP
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A Malaysian Hindu devotee reacts before walking towards the Batu Caves templeMohd Rasfan/AFP
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A Hindu devotee with hooks pierced into his back spins while making his pilgrimage to the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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Hindu devotees climb the steps to the Batu Caves temple during their pilgrimageOlivia Harris/Reuters
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Hindu devotees climb the stairs towards the Batu Caves templeOlivia Harris/Reuters
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Hindu devotees gather at the shrine in the Batu Caves temple during ThaipusamOlivia Harris/Reuters

Although Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, there is a small but significant Tamil community within the population.

The festival is also observed in countries with a significant Tamil community such as India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar.

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A Hindu devotee with ornamental facial and body piercings carries offerings of milk along a procession route in Singapore's Little India districtRoslan Rahman/AFP
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A much-pierced devotee carrying a Kavadi waits to start his procession in SingaporeEdgar Su/Reuters
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Men, pierced with tiny jugs holding ashes, prepare for their procession during Thaipusam festival in SingaporeEdgar Su/Reuters
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A devotee leaves a temple in Singapore pulling a chariot from hooks in his backEdgar Su/Reuters
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A devotee leaves a temple pulling a chariot during the Thaipusam festival in SingaporeEdgar Su/Reuters

The exact date of Thaipusam, which changes each year in the Gregorian calendar, is based on the full moon day in the month of Thai in the Hindu calendar.