Kavadi ritual in Brazil
by Alexandre Montealto
My name is Alexandre Montealto, mostly known as Peco. I'm a 28 year old Brazilian.
One day, through IAM, the community behind BMEzine, I met Korn, a Dutch ritual-performer who had built his own Kavadi frame in 1992. He became a good friend. We corresponded for a long time. When Korn came to Brazil, he helped me in my first ritual (an 8-point lotus suspension) being my Ka-See-Ka. It was an amazing experience and it made me understand the importance behind rituals.
A couple of months later I went to Holland, where I spent some days with Korn, talking and learning. He showed me his Kavadi frame and helped me with my project of building my own Kavadi frame.
I returned to Brazil, reading the project over and over again, wanting to build it at last. From then on I researched everything there is to know about the ritual and its roots. Thaipusam, the name given to a festival held in honor to the Lord Murugan, son of the Lord Shiva with Parvati, and in which Kavadi is practiced alongside with Ball Dancing and Pulling. The more I read, the more I was fascinated. I felt the atmosphere, I was living MurugA.
I then decided to turn the construction of the Kavadi frame into a devotional act by itself. With help of my cousin Tiago, I did the whole craftmans work by hand, the only electric tool used being a drill. All the cutting, shaping and sanding was done manually.
With the frame ready, I had to leave town to work abroad. I left the project at home but the desire was always with me. I met with Hindus - and this helped me to have a more solid knowledge on the spiritual and religious aspect of the ritual. I heard many stories in temples alongside with real experiences motivated by faith. All this made me realize even further that my ritual would be special, and it would be an amazing experience.
Back home I took care of all the remaining details and little problems, as a date was already set: the Thaipusam of 2007, starting on February 1st, coincidentally, the day of my birthday. All in all, a perfect date. It would be held in a beautiful small town (Joaquim Egidio SP) near mine (Campinas SP).
Days before, I bought some gear for the frame that was still missing (bells and screws), leaving others (flowers and fruits) to be purchased the day of the ritual. I called some friends to accompany me for helping me with the spears and be there for any possible issues that might come up.
Sunday, February 4th, 2007
After lunch, everybody (separated in two groups/cars) were on their way to Joaquim Egidio looking for a perfect spot for the much anticipated event. After a couple of hours and many miles of unpaved road we found a segment of road with a stunning view, huge stones and many, many cows.
We started to assemble the frame structure and placed the flowers in smaller titanium spears crafted by Korn. By then I was barefoot, wearing a ritualistic robe with the initials of Korn's group (TSS - Truth Seekers Syndicate). Some curious people stopped by the road and watched, smiling, briefly.
Initially, being inside the built frame wasn`t very comfortable, I had to be careful for it easily bent one way or another.
My piercer Cris got ready to place the cheek spear (a 2.4mm/about 10g) - another gift by Korn. When it finally went through my cheeks, the whole ritual gained another atmosphere. I couldn`t talk, I had to focus on the Lord.
After a few minutes we finished assembling the structure.
All in all, there were 40 spears on my chest, ribcage and back.I then realized why I had been told by Korn to make the spears as sharp as I could: they were supposed to sink about 3mm into the flesh. Some weren`t sharp enough, so we used a needle to place the spears and set them in.
Everything was ready. The initial uncomfortable feeling dissipated and I just felt peaceful. Even the sounds around me changed.
So I began to walk, and I just felt good walking and walking. I had a fascinating moment, I can't explain if it was the bells ringing or the ritual, but the cows that were nearby slowly began to walk by my side, following my pace as in a holy procession. Simply amazing!
I walked and walked and it seemed that the Kavadi gave me strength to walk - a peaceful feeling.
Kavadi, for me, is devotion and Love. That`s what I got: Love. It was an intense experience, not much about pain, but about Love and Peace.
I had an image of Lord Murugan over my head, in the frame, and when I looked at it, it smiled and thanked for all that, for making it happen and receiving the love.
When the walk was over and the spears were taken off, I felt free, light, calm and happy.
And day after day the feeling has kept itself strong. Things started to happen much easier for me, problems solved, answers made clear. This was the Paradise from Kavadi that I was still living.
I`m already thinking of something special for the next Thaipusam! Thank you Lord Murugan, Korn, my cousin Tiago, Fakir Musafar and all the good friends that followed me in this walk. Thank you!
Contact the author Alexandre Montealto, (a.k.a Peco).