From Fiji to Malaysia, India and elsewhere in the world, the annual Thaipusam festival marks the day when the goddess Parvathi gave her son Lord Murugan a powerful lance to fight demons.

A Hindu devotee carries milk pots during a procession of the Thaipusam festival at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A Hindu devotee carries milk pots during a procession of the Thaipusam festival at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (AP)

Millions of Hindus around the world celebrated the annual Thaipusam festival on Wednesday, with many piercing their skin with hooks and skewers to show devotion to the deity Murugan.

Thaipusam marks the day when the goddess Parvathi gave her son Lord Murugan a powerful lance to fight demons. It is observed mainly in countries with a significant ethnic Tamil population, which apart from India includes Sri Lanka, South Africa, Malaysia, and neighbouring Singapore.

Hindu devotees carry pots with milk on their heads as they make their way along a four-kilometer route during a Thaipusam festival procession in Singapore.
Hindu devotees carry pots with milk on their heads as they make their way along a four-kilometer route during a Thaipusam festival procession in Singapore. (AFP)

It is a national holiday in many countries like Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Fiji.

In Malaysia, thousands of devotees thronged the Batu Caves on the outskirts of the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur in the early hours Wednesday, walking barefoot up the 272 steps towards the site's limestone hilltop shrine.

Many carried prayer offerings known as "kavadi" and balanced milk pots on their heads with their hands as they ascended.

A Hindu boy walks over burning coal as he takes part in the Thaipusam festival in Chennai, India.
A Hindu boy walks over burning coal as he takes part in the Thaipusam festival in Chennai, India. (Reuters)

Some carried large platforms attached to a harness and decorated with images and idols of Hindu deities.

Others pierced their faces with tridents and rods or hung multiple hooks and chains from their skin in an act of penance.

The steps also take devotees past a statue of Lord Murugan standing 42.7 metres (141 feet) high – the tallest figure of the deity in the world.

Devotees climb the steps to Batu Caves during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Devotees climb the steps to Batu Caves during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Reuters)

"I just recently got married so I just went up to say thanks to him (Lord Murugan)," Vijeyaletchumy Vimalan, a Thaipusam participant for 25 years, told AFP. 

A Hindu devotee recites a prayer during Thaipusam at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
A Hindu devotee recites a prayer during Thaipusam at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Reuters)
Source: TRTWorld and agencies