The Panguni Uthiram festival, celebrated annually during the full moon of the Tamil month of Panguni, which takes place from the end of March through early April, means the "Full Moon of Divine Marriages."
This festival is important to Tamil Hindus, as it commemorates the marriage of several deities including Parvati, Parameshwaran, Lord Murugan and Deivanai. Some Tamils pierce their bodies with sharp objects as an act of deference toward the Gods.
While the acts of extreme body piercing and "hooking" may look similar to Thailand's Vegetarian Festival, the purpose behind each could not be more different. The Vegetarian Festival has participants piercing "their faces with skewers, knives, drill bits, umbrellas and even model helicopters as a part of the annual body purification ceremony," while the Tamil Hindu devotees pierce their bodies as a mark of respect for Lord Murgan, the patron deity of the Tamil land, according to religious beliefs.
The religious holiday is celebrated throughout Asia in countries including Sri Lanka, India and Singapore. The images in the AP photo gallery below were snapped in New Delhi, India, where a procession of Tamil Hindus took to the streets to show their devotion.