Maria Skouras

Maria Skouras (eHomemakers): Maria describes herself as a life-long learner. She earned a BA from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, a Masters of Science degree from New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, and a Master of the Arts from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science in Cultural Sociology. She then worked for seven years as the Senior Policy Analyst in NYU’s Office of Government and Community Affairs. Maria has been an active board member of The Posterus Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York City, studied abroad in Italy, London, China and Hong Kong and traveled extensively through the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. After her fellowship Maria wrote: "Speaking with locals and living in a country is the best way to learn about the real lives of citizens, not just the stories in the mainstream media. I will be more critical of what I read as a result of this experience.”

Learning about the Hindu Festival Thaipusam

22 Jan

During my first week in Kuala Lumpur, I’ve adjusted to the time difference, become acquainted with some of eHomemakers’ operations and eco-baskets, and attended the Hindu festival Thaipusam.

Before coming to Malaysia, the Executive Director of eH, Ching Ching, suggested that I come in time for the festival, the largest of its kind in the world.  I hadn’t heard of it before but when I consulted google images, I was struck by what I saw…piercings through the face and tongue and fruit attached to hooks and inserted into devotees’ backs.  Having never seen anything like this in person, I knew I had to experience it firsthand to find out what this holiday was all about.

The festivities take place at Batu Caves, where a towering, golden statue of the Hindu God of War, Lord Murugan resides.  Lord Murugan is the son of the Hindu God of Destruction, Lord Shiva, and Parvati, The Divine Mother and Love Goddess.

World's Largest Lord Murugan Statue at Batu Caves

During the month leading up to Thaipusam, devotees practice piety by remaining celibate, meditating, praying, refraining from thinking impure thoughts or consuming alcohol, and only eating one satvic meal per day, which mainly consists of fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  These practices are believed to bring peace, strength, and clarity to those who perform them.

Believers gather at Batu Caves to repent for their sins and ask Lord Murugan to grant them blessings.   Prayers may include curing an ailing relative, giving birth to a healthy child, wishing for good grades in school, or hoping for prosperity.   Those who believe their wishes were granted throughout the year also return to give thanks and show their devotion to Lord Murugan.

Posted By Maria Skouras

Posted Jan 22nd, 2011

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